Dog bite laws in Virginia are complex and consist of various city ordinances, state statutory laws, and common laws. There are states that observe the “One Bite” rule which protects a dog owner from liability for a first dog bite while there are other states that observe the law in which a dog owner is liable for the first bite and any other bite thereafter.

Virginia is one of the states that follows the “One Bite” law meaning that the first time a dog bites a person, the injured person is not able to file a claim against the dog owner. However, there are a couple exceptions to this law:

  1. If the owners or dog handler caused the incident because they were breaking the law or were negligent in their behavior, they can be held liable.
  2. If there is a “leash law” within a city, a dog owner can also be held liable. In essence, this is in line with being negligent in the handling of a dog. (By the way, Richmond does have a “leash law”).

There are many people who believe that the dog bite laws in Virginia need to be changed. The “One Bite” law comes from the ancient laws of Old England when dogs were able to roam around freely. Society has changed tremendously since “the days of yore”.

However, it does look like Virginia is starting to move forward with new dog bite laws. A couple years ago Virginia Code Section 3.1-796.93:1 came about which states that a dog could be considered a dangerous animal not just for biting a human, but for any previous attack on another dog or cat. The dog owner is now required to carry liability insurance coverage of $100,000.00 or obtain a surety bond if the dog is labeled a “dangerous animal”.

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