VA House Votes to Change "Dangerous Dog" Term
The legal definition of a dangerous dog is set to change in Virginia. That’s the news out of Richmond, following a unanimous vote of 97-0 in favor of the change. Delegate Matthew Farris of Rustburg introduced the bill, which gives animal control officers the option of deciding whether an animal who bites is indeed dangerous.
The current law requires officials to summon the dog’s owner to court, where they will have to explain why their dog shouldn’t be considered dangerous. If the court finds the dog is indeed dangerous, the owner must pay a $150 fee to obtain a dangerous dog certificate. The dog is also placed on a state-wide registry.
The bill aims to prevent animal control officers from summoning pet owners whose dogs are truly not dangerous. Though nips from puppies are innocent enough, this is a slippery slope. Where does the line get drawn between playful bites from a young dog still learning to play safely and an older dog playing rough – and seriously injuring someone? This gray area could make it more difficult for dog bite victims to seek justice following attacks.
Supporters of this bill say it will help educate the public about the criteria for an actual dog bite. Still, some experts worry about how the word “dangerous” might be interpreted by each individual animal control official. Without black and white terminology, it could be very difficult to get a dangerous dog onto the registry. This bill could have long reaching ramifications for dog bite victims throughout the state.
The bill will continue on to the Virginia state Senate, where our representatives will determine if the legal definition of a dangerous dogs should indeed be changed. Regardless of how this all works out, we’ll be here to advocate for victims no matter if the dog in question was on a “dangerous” list or not.
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If you’ve been attacked by someone else’s dog, it is important that you collect as much evidence as possible. The Virginia dog bite lawyers at the Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC understand the need for an immediate investigation because proof is essential in obtaining the highest possible settlement or verdict for your case. If you’d like to speak with our Virginia dog bite lawyers, contact us for a free consultation 877-544-5323.