Dangerous & Vicious Dogs

 
*Cross references:  Environment, ch. 34. 
State law references:  Authority to control dangerous or vicious dogs, Code of Virginia, § 3.1-796.93:1.  
Sec. 10-81.  Regulation.
All dangerous and vicious dogs in the county shall be subject to the following regulations:
 
1)       Any animal control officer who has reason to believe that a canine or canine crossbreed within the county is a dangerous dog or vicious dog shall apply to a magistrate of the county for the issuance of a summons requiring the owner or custodian, if known, to appear before the county general district court at a specified time. The summons shall advise the owner of the nature of the proceeding and the matters at issue. The animal control officer or owner shall confine the animal until such time as evidence shall be heard and a verdict rendered. The court, through its contempt powers, may compel the owner, custodian or harborer of the animal to produce the animal. If after hearing the evidence the court finds that the animal is a dangerous dog, the court shall order the animal's owner to comply with the provisions of this division. If, after hearing the evidence, the court finds that the animal is a vicious dog, the court shall order the animal euthanized in accordance with the provisions of Code of Virginia, § 3.1-796.119. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subsection, any animal control officer may determine, after investigation, whether a dog is a dangerous dog. If the animal control officer determines that a dog is a dangerous dog, he may order the animal's owner to comply with the provisions of this article. If the animal's owner disagrees with the animal control officers determination, he may appeal the determination to the general district court for a trial on the merits.
 
2)       No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed. No animal shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog if the threat, injury or damage was sustained by a person who was:
          a)   Committing, at the time, a crime upon the premises occupied by the animal's owner or custodian;
          b)   Committing, at the time, a willful trespass or other tort upon the premises occupied by the animal's owner or custodian; or
          c)   Provoking, tormenting or physically abusing the animal, or can be shown to have repeatedly provoked, tormented, abused or assaulted the animal at other times.
 
No police dog which was engaged in the performance of its duties as such at the time of the acts complained of shall be found to be a dangerous dog or a vicious dog. No animal which, at the time of the acts complained of, was responding to pain or injury, or was protecting itself, its kennel, its offspring, or its owner or owner's property, shall be found to be a dangerous dog or a vicious dog.
 
3)         The owner of any animal found to be a dangerous dog shall, within ten days of such finding, obtain a dangerous dog registration certificate from the animal control officer for a fee of $200.00 in addition to other fees that may be authorized by law. The animal control officer shall also provide the owner with a uniformly designed tag which identifies the animal as a dangerous dog. The owner shall affix the tag to the animal's collar and ensure that the animal wears the collar and tag at all times. All certificates obtained pursuant to this subsection shall be renewed annually for the same fee and in the same manner as the initial certificate was obtained.
 
4)         All certificates or renewals required to be obtained under this division shall only be issued to persons 18 years of age or older who present satisfactory evidence of the animal's current rabies vaccination, if applicable, and that the animal is and will be confined in a proper enclosure or is and will be confined inside the owner's residence or is and will be muzzled and confined in the owner's fenced-in yard until the proper enclosure is constructed. In addition, owners who apply for certificates or renewals under this section shall not be issued a certificate or renewal unless they present satisfactory evidence that their residence is and will continue to be posted with clearly visible signs warning both minors and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog on the property and the animal has been permanently identified by means of a tattoo on the inside thigh or by electronic implantation.
 
5)         While on the property of its owner, an animal found to be a dangerous dog shall be confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked structure of sufficient height and design to prevent its escape or direct contact with or entry by minors, adults or other animals. The structure shall be designed to provide the animal with shelter from the elements of nature. When off its owner's property, an animal found to be a dangerous dog shall be kept on a leash and muzzled in such a manner as not to cause injury to the animal or interfere with the animal's vision or respiration, but so as to prevent it from biting a person or another animal.
 
6)         If the owner of an animal found to be a dangerous dog is a minor, the custodial parent or legal guardian shall be responsible for complying with all requirements of this division.
 
7)         After an animal has been found to be a dangerous dog, the animal's owner shall immediately, upon learning of the dog's status, notify the animal control officer if the animal:
            a)   Is loose or unconfined;
            b)   Bites a person or attacks another animal;
            c)   Is sold, given away or dies; or
            d)   Has been moved to a different address.
 
8)         The owner of any animal which has been found to be a dangerous dog who willfully fails to comply with the requirements of this division shall be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
 
9)         All fees collected pursuant to this article, less the costs incurred by the county in producing and distributing the certificates and tags required by this article, shall be paid into a special dedicated fund in the treasury of the county for the purpose of paying the expenses of any training course required under Code of Virginia, § 3.1-796.105.
 
10)      All certificates or renewals required to be obtained under this division shall only be issued to persons 18 years of age or older who present satisfactory evidence that the animal has been neutered or spayed.
 
11)      All certificates or renewals required to be obtained under this division shall only be issued to persons who present satisfactory evidence that the owner has liability insurance coverage, to the value of at least $100,000.00 that covers animal bites.
 
 12)      Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the animal control officer, in his discretion, may determine, after investigation, whether a dog is a dangerous dog. If the animal control officer determines that a dog is a dangerous dog, he may order the animal's owner to comply with the provisions of this article. If the animal's owner disagrees with the animal control officers determination, he may appeal the determination to the general district court for a trial on the merits.