Dog Bite Bill Signed Into Law

Dog Bite Bill Signed Into Law

Recently, Governor McAuliffe signed House Bill 2381 into law, which makes substantial changes to state law regarding dog bite liability. The law will go into effect in July, so if you were recently injured by someone else’s dog and have questions about how these changes will affect your case, it is important to contact an experienced Richmond personal injury lawyer who can address your concerns.

Current Law

In Virginia, dog owners have a legal duty to:
  • Exercise ordinary care to prevent their animals from running at large beyond the boundaries of their own land; and
  • Exercise reasonable care to prevent a dog that has dangerous propensities from attacking or injuring another person or animal.
Even dog owners who do not have actual knowledge of an animal’s dangerous propensities can still be held accountable for resulting injuries if, in the exercise of ordinary care, they should have:
  • Known of the dog’s propensities; or
  • Known that a particular breed had certain propensities towards aggression.
When dog owners fail to use reasonable care to restrain their animals they can be required to compensate anyone who suffers an injury as a result. Generally, demonstrating that a dog’s owner violated a leash law or other city ordinance is enough to satisfy this burden. Finally, under current state law, when a dog bites someone, the animal’s owner is required to come to court and explain why the dog is not dangerous. If a court determines that it is dangerous, the owner must obtain a dangerous dog registration certificate within 45 days.


According to the terms of the new law, a dog will not be considered dangerous if an animal control officer finds that the injury inflicted by the dog consisted only of a single nip or bite resulting in a minor injury, scratch, or abrasion. In these cases, instead of automatically being required to summon the dog’s owner to court, an animal control officer has the discretion to decide whether the incident is serious enough to merit a court appearance. However, if the dog’s owner is required to go to court and the judge determines that the dog is dangerous, the owner must purchase a dangerous dog certificate within 30 days and take additional steps to ensure that the animal is restrained. However, even if an animal was not considered dangerous prior to an accident, the owner can still be held accountable in court for resulting injuries.

Damages and Time Limits

Those who are injured by a dog that the owner knew or should have known posed a risk to others can collect compensation for their losses, which could include:
  • Medical expenses;
  • Lost wages;
  • Property damage;
  • Disfigurement and scarring; and
  • Emotional distress.
However, in order to be eligible to collect damages, an injured party must file a claim within two years of the date of the incident. Plaintiffs who fail to file before this deadline risk having their claim barred by the court.

Contact Us Today to Speak With a Richmond Personal Injury Attorney

Being bitten by a dog can be physically and emotionally traumatic, so if you were recently injured by someone else’s animal, please contact Emroch & Kilduff at (804) 358-1568 to speak with a member of our experienced legal team.

William B. Kilduff


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