2006 Code of Virginia § 3.1-796.93:1 - Control of dangerous or vicious dogs; penalties

3.1-796.93:1. Control of dangerous or vicious dogs; penalties.

A. As used in this section:

"Dangerous dog" means a canine or canine crossbreed that has bitten,attacked, or inflicted injury on a person or companion animal that is a dogor cat, or killed a companion animal that is a dog or cat. However, when adog attacks or bites a companion animal that is a dog or cat, the attackingor biting dog shall not be deemed dangerous (i) if no serious physical injuryas determined by a licensed veterinarian has occurred to the dog or cat as aresult of the attack or bite, (ii) if both animals are owned by the sameperson, (iii) if such attack occurs on the property of the attacking orbiting dog's owner or custodian, or (iv) for other good cause as determinedby the court. No dog shall be found to be a dangerous dog as a result ofbiting, attacking, or inflicting injury on a dog or cat while engaged with anowner or custodian as part of lawful hunting or participating in anorganized, lawful dog handling event.

"Vicious dog" means a canine or canine crossbreed that has (i) killed aperson; (ii) inflicted serious injury to a person, including multiple bites,serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious impairment ofa bodily function; or (iii) continued to exhibit the behavior that resultedin a previous finding by a court or, on or before July 1, 2006, by an animalcontrol officer as authorized by local ordinance, that it is a dangerous dog,provided that its owner has been given notice of that finding.

B. Any law-enforcement officer or animal control officer who has reason tobelieve that a canine or canine crossbreed within his jurisdiction is adangerous dog or vicious dog shall apply to a magistrate of the jurisdictionfor the issuance of a summons requiring the owner or custodian, if known, toappear before a general district court at a specified time. The summons shalladvise the owner of the nature of the proceeding and the matters at issue. Ifa law-enforcement officer successfully makes an application for the issuanceof a summons, he shall contact the local animal control officer and informhim of the location of the dog and the relevant facts pertaining to hisbelief that the dog is dangerous or vicious. The animal control officer shallconfine the animal until such time as evidence shall be heard and a verdictrendered. If the animal control officer determines that the owner orcustodian can confine the animal in a manner that protects the public safety,he may permit the owner or custodian to confine the animal until such time asevidence shall be heard and a verdict rendered. The court, through itscontempt powers, may compel the owner, custodian or harborer of the animal toproduce the animal. If, after hearing the evidence, the court finds that theanimal is a dangerous dog, the court shall order the animal's owner to complywith the provisions of this section. If, after hearing the evidence, thecourt finds that the animal is a vicious dog, the court shall order theanimal euthanized in accordance with the provisions of 3.1-796.119. Theprocedure for appeal and trial shall be the same as provided by law formisdemeanors. Trial by jury shall be as provided in Article 4 ( 19.2-260 etseq.) of Chapter 15 of Title 19.2. The Commonwealth shall be required toprove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

C. No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog orvicious dog solely because it is a particular breed, nor is the ownership ofa particular breed of canine or canine crossbreed prohibited. No animal shallbe found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog if the threat, injury or damagewas sustained by a person who was (i) committing, at the time, a crime uponthe premises occupied by the animal's owner or custodian, (ii) committing, atthe time, a willful trespass upon the premises occupied by the animal's owneror custodian, or (iii) provoking, tormenting, or physically abusing theanimal, or can be shown to have repeatedly provoked, tormented, abused, orassaulted the animal at other times. No police dog that was engaged in theperformance of its duties as such at the time of the acts complained of shallbe found to be a dangerous dog or a vicious dog. No animal that, at the timeof the acts complained of, was responding to pain or injury, or wasprotecting itself, its kennel, its offspring, a person, or its owner's orcustodian's property, shall be found to be a dangerous dog or a vicious dog.

D. If the owner of an animal found to be a dangerous dog is a minor, thecustodial parent or legal guardian shall be responsible for complying withall requirements of this section.

E. The owner of any animal found to be a dangerous dog shall, within 10 daysof such finding, obtain a dangerous dog registration certificate from thelocal animal control officer or treasurer for a fee of $50, in addition toother fees that may be authorized by law. The local animal control officer ortreasurer shall also provide the owner with a uniformly designed tag thatidentifies the animal as a dangerous dog. The owner shall affix the tag tothe animal's collar and ensure that the animal wears the collar and tag atall times. All certificates obtained pursuant to this subsection shall berenewed annually for the same fee and in the same manner as the initialcertificate was obtained. The animal control officer shall provide a copy ofthe dangerous dog registration certificate and verification of compliance tothe State Veterinarian.

F. All dangerous dog registration certificates or renewals thereof requiredto be obtained under this section shall only be issued to persons 18 years ofage or older who present satisfactory evidence (i) of the animal's currentrabies vaccination, if applicable, (ii) that the animal has been neutered orspayed, and (iii) that the animal is and will be confined in a properenclosure or is and will be confined inside the owner's residence or is andwill be muzzled and confined in the owner's fenced-in yard until the properenclosure is constructed. In addition, owners who apply for certificates orrenewals thereof under this section shall not be issued a certificate orrenewal thereof unless they present satisfactory evidence that (i) theirresidence is and will continue to be posted with clearly visible signswarning both minors and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog on theproperty and (ii) the animal has been permanently identified by means of atattoo on the inside thigh or by electronic implantation. All certificates orrenewals thereof required to be obtained under this section shall only beissued to persons who present satisfactory evidence that the owner hasliability insurance coverage, to the value of at least $100,000, that coversanimal bites. The owner may obtain and maintain a bond in surety, in lieu ofliability insurance, to the value of at least $100,000.

G. While on the property of its owner, an animal found to be a dangerous dogshall be confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked structure ofsufficient height and design to prevent its escape or direct contact with orentry by minors, adults, or other animals. The structure shall be designed toprovide the animal with shelter from the elements of nature. When off itsowner's property, an animal found to be a dangerous dog shall be kept on aleash and muzzled in such a manner as not to cause injury to the animal orinterfere with the animal's vision or respiration, but so as to prevent itfrom biting a person or another animal.

H. The owner of any dog found to be dangerous shall register the animal withthe Commonwealth of Virginia Dangerous Dog Registry, as established under 3.1-796.93:3, within 45 days of such a finding by a court of competentjurisdiction.

The owner shall also cause the local animal control officer to be promptlynotified of (i) the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all owners;(ii) all of the means necessary to locate the owner and the dog at any time;(iii) any complaints or incidents of attack by the dog upon any person or cator dog; (iv) any claims made or lawsuits brought as a result of any attack;(v) tattoo or chip identification information or both; (vi) proof ofinsurance or surety bond; and (vii) the death of the dog.

I. After an animal has been found to be a dangerous dog, the animal's ownershall immediately, upon learning of same, cause the local animal controlauthority to be notified if the animal (i) is loose or unconfined; or (ii)bites a person or attacks another animal; or (iii) is sold, given away, ordies. Any owner of a dangerous dog who relocates to a new address shall,within 10 days of relocating, provide written notice to the appropriate localanimal control authority for the old address from which the animal has movedand the new address to which the animal has been moved.

J. Any owner or custodian of a canine or canine crossbreed or other animal isguilty of a:

1. Class 2 misdemeanor if the canine or canine crossbreed previously declareda dangerous dog pursuant to this section, when such declaration arose out ofa separate and distinct incident, attacks and injures or kills a cat or dogthat is a companion animal belonging to another person;

2. Class 1 misdemeanor if the canine or canine crossbreed previously declareda dangerous dog pursuant to this section, when such declaration arose out ofa separate and distinct incident, bites a human being or attacks a humanbeing causing bodily injury; or

3. Class 6 felony if any owner or custodian whose willful act or omission inthe care, control, or containment of a canine, canine crossbreed, or otheranimal is so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard forhuman life, and is the proximate cause of such dog or other animal attackingand causing serious bodily injury to any person.

The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any animal that, at thetime of the acts complained of, was responding to pain or injury, or wasprotecting itself, its kennel, its offspring, a person, or its owner's orcustodian's property, or when the animal is a police dog that is engaged inthe performance of its duties at the time of the attack.

K. The owner of any animal that has been found to be a dangerous dog whowillfully fails to comply with the requirements of this section is guilty ofa Class 1 misdemeanor.

L. All fees collected pursuant to this section, less the costs incurred bythe animal control authority in producing and distributing the certificatesand tags required by this section, shall be paid into a special dedicatedfund in the treasury of the locality for the purpose of paying the expensesof any training course required under 3.1-796.104:1.

M. The governing body of any locality may enact an ordinance parallel to thisstatute regulating dangerous and vicious dogs; provided, however, that nolocality may impose a felony penalty for violation of such local ordinances.

(1993, c. 977; 1994, c. 115; 1997, cc. 582, 892; 1998, c. 817; 2000, cc. 11,727; 2003, cc. 785, 841; 2006, cc. 837, 864, 898.)

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