What Happens When My Dog Bites?
Sometimes things happen before you get a chance to stop them. Obviously with animals, and dogs in particular, your best defense is a good offense. That means taking precautions on the front end to avoid any issues and to keep your animals safe. For example, Loudoun County has a leash ordinance that generally requires all dogs to be on leash unless they are on your own property or otherwise contained in a fenced area (Ordinance 612.13). This means you are required by law to have your dog on leash and under control when you are out walking.
If your dog has issues with other dogs, you always want to take care to avoid any direct contact that you know could result in a potential bite. If your dog gets overly excited when people come over to the house, you may want to consider containing them until you have trained them not to jump, nip, or scratch at people. It may be innocent and friendly but I have seen many cases where dogs do something completely out of the blue or even accidentally that causes injuries.
If you live in Virginia, several things could happen if your dog bites another person or animal. If the officer makes any of the following findings, you could receive a summons for dangerous dog:
That your dog killed or inflicted serious injury on another dog or cat; or
That your dog directly caused serious injury to another person.
If both the aggressor dog and injured animal are owned by you or the incident originated on your property (in the case of an injured animal), then the officer shall not issue a summons. Nor should a summons be issued if the injury to a person consists solely of a single nip or bite resulting in an abrasion, scratch, or other minor injury.
If the court determines there is sufficient evidence to declare your dog dangerous, then you must comply with a number of conditions including muzzling the dog when outside the home, posting signage, carrying extra liability insurance, and registering your dog on a directory. You could also be ordered to pay restitution, court costs, and the costs of caring for your dog if he/she was impounded by animal control. This is all in addition to potentially facing civil liability as well. As you can tell, this is a very serious situation that can result in a number of adverse consequences for you and your dog. You should always consult with an attorney before making statements to animal control or appearing in court. In my next blog post, I will discuss the difference between a dangerous dog summons and vicious dog summons.