What is the Difference Between a Summons for Dangerous Dog and Vicious Dog?
In my last blog post I discussed what happens if your dog bites someone or another animal in Virginia. If the animal control officer writes a summons for dangerous dog and your dog is found to be dangerous, then there are a number of conditions that you must meet for the rest of your dog's life.
But what happens if you received a vicious dog summons? A vicious dog summons means that your dog either killed a person, inflicted "serious injury" to a person, or continued to exhibit behavior that has already resulted in a previous court finding. Under the law, animal control is required to confiscate and confine your dog until a hearing and decision has been made in the case. If the court finds that your dog is dangerous, the court shall order your dog to be euthanized. This means that the court has no choice but to order euthanasia if one of the above-findings has been made. You have the right to appeal the decision to a Circuit Court and you have the right to request a jury trial in the matter.
There are certain exceptions and defenses that can be raised in these types of cases but it is extremely important to consult with an attorney if you want to challenge the case. I refer to these as death penalty cases because that is exactly what they are. There are a number of ways to approach these situations in court that can involve speaking with witnesses ahead of time, presenting mitigating evidence, and determining if there is a legal defense to the case. You should not simply assume that you can handle the case on your own.
Even if you ultimately decide that you may not want to challenge the case, it is always best to consult with an attorney first before making any final decisions or signing over your dog to animal control. While they are required to take custody of your dog regardless, they may ask you if you want to voluntarily agree to immediate euthanasia. Some decisions made in the heat of the moment are not reversible later and it is always best to take some time to think each option over. I always offer free consultation calls in these scenarios to help ensure a decision is as well-informed as possible.
And always remember for any bite situation, you should always do your best to document injuries on scene, take pictures/videos, and be sure to get contact information for any person who may have seen part or all of the incident.