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Virginia Leash Laws and Your Dog Bite Case

Virginia Leash Law

Some dog bites are more than a nuisance. Larger dogs and aggressive breeds like pit bulls can cause severe — and even life-threatening — injuries. While it’s impossible to know whether or when a dog might attack, certain actions can be taken to prevent a dog bite from happening. Keeping your dog on a leash when in public is one such step. Understand the Virginia leash law for your case.

Not every dog owner is responsible and adheres to Virginia leash laws, though. Sometimes, this comes down to a disregard for the safety of others. In other cases, a dog owner may be ignorant of the law. Regardless of the reason, not placing one’s dog on a leash can expose the owner to legal liability.


Only Local Virginia Leash Law


There is no statewide leash laws in Virginia. Instead, it’s up to each individual municipality to decide whether to enact a local ordinance requiring dog owners to use leashes in public.

Dog owners in each city throughout the Commonwealth are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the ordinances their city has enacted and what they require. For example:

Charlottesville City Ordinance

The City of Charlottesville prohibits dogs from running free in public places. This ordinance prohibits a dog from being outside an enclosure and on public property without a leash.

Although a dog under the immediate control of its owner’s voice commands isn’t considered “off-leash” in certain places, leashes are mandatory in other public areas in all instances.

Newport News City Ordinance


Similarly, Newport News recently adopted an ordinance requiring owners to put their dogs on a lash. The owner must use a leash for their animal anytime they take the dog off of their property.

Suppose you’re walking your dog to a friend’s house and intend to allow it to run free in their yard once you arrive. Your pet would need to be on a leash throughout the entire journey for you to avoid liability for its possible escape and subsequent behavior.

Pittsylvania County Ordinance


There is no county-wide leash law in Pittsylvania County. Dogs only need a collar with a current tag not to be considered running at large. However, there are areas within the county, mostly subdivisions, where the residents have passed petitions to designate the area as a dog control area. All dogs must be on leashes in these areas.

Violations of Local Virginia Leash Law


Not only can individual municipalities adopt their own ordinances requiring the use of leashes, but they can each set penalties for violations of these ordinances as well.

In most cases, cities with leash laws will fine owners who allow their dogs to run around loose. In these situations, local animal control can pick up the dog and impound it at the owner’s expense. And if a dog bites or otherwise attacks another person, additional penalties may await the owner.

Dog Bites and Leash Laws


Virginia Leash Laws

States have adopted one of two approaches regarding civil liability for dog bites.

Some states are “no-bite states.” In a no-bite state, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries their animal causes to another. An injured person doesn’t need to show that the owner acted negligently in keeping the dog. Furthermore, the victim does not need to prove that the owner knew their dog was likely to bite another person.

In a no-bite state, an injury victim can secure damages even if the offending animal has never attacked or displayed aggression toward anyone before.

Other states are known as “one-bite” states. Virginia falls into this category and has adopted legislation accordingly.

In a one-bite state, an injury victim can recover damages following a dog bite only if they demonstrate the owner acted negligently in keeping their dog. Not only that, but the owner must also have had some reason to suspect that their dog was dangerous.

For example, an owner should suspect that their dog is dangerous if the animal:

  • Has bitten or attacked others in the past
  • Behaves aggressively toward others, such as by snarling or growling
  • Regularly destroys property
  • Escapes its cage and runs at large with a pack of other aggressive dogs

In light of these stipulations, dog owners in Virginia must take reasonable measures to safeguard others.

When a dog is outdoors on its property, there should be an enclosure to contain it. Similarly, dog owners who know their animals are potentially dangerous shouldn’t allow them to run loose in public. These animals should be on a leash at all times while in public places, regardless of any local ordinance according to Virginia leash law.

The Effect of Local Leash Ordinances on Dog Bite Cases


While local ordinances may create additional civil penalties for a dog owner who allows their dog to run at large, a violation of leash laws isn’t necessarily grounds for a dog bite victim to automatically receive compensation.

If you were to be bitten by a dog, you’d still need to show that the owner behaved negligently and knew that the animal was likely dangerous.

However, if the owner is aware that their dog is dangerous, compliance with leash laws becomes a significant concern. If the owner willfully disobeys a leash law, it can constitute evidence of negligence. Such evidence may support a claim for damages following a dog bite or attack.

Speak with The Joel Bieber Firm About Your Dog Bite Case


Virginia leash law can be confusing, especially following the stress and confusion of being bitten by an unleashed dog. Let the professional personal injury lawyer at The Joel Bieber Firm help you make sense of your case.

We’ll review the facts surrounding the incident and advise you of your rights and options. If you wish to move forward with a lawsuit, we can assist you with every step involved in pursuing compensation. Contact our offices today to learn more.

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