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Ben Glass
Ben Glass
Attorney • (703) 584-7277

Dog Bite Law in Virginia

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What happens if you are bitten or attacked by a dog and suffer injury in Virginia? The answer may depend on what county you live in.

The general law in Virginia is that a dog owner owes no duty to another absent knowledge of the propensity of the dog to attack or bite. This is known as the “common law” duty of a dog owner. We call it “every dog gets one free bite.”

However, if your county has adopted a leash law you should be able to win your case by showing that the dog owner violated the leash law.

In analyzing a Norfolk ordinance, the Supreme Court of Virginia said:

The purpose of the ordinance, as we read it, is to protect the public against hazards created by dogs running at large, including the most obvious hazard, dog-bite.

So, if the statute is designed to protect the public, then violation of the statute may give rise to liability even if the owner did not know of the dog’s propensity to violence.

In Fairfax County we have an effective leash law which should govern.

FAIRFAX COUNTY CODE (Class 4 misdeamenor)

Section 41.1-2-4 Unrestricted dogs prohibited; leash law (a) No dog shall run unrestricted, as defined in Section 41.1-1-1, in the County. Any person who is the owner of a dog found unrestricted in the County shall be in violation of this Section.