West's Code of Virginia in the GMUSL Library

Generally, animal law refers to the law affecting pets—dogs in particular. In Virginia, practically, this consists of doggy detinue cases and quasi-criminal dangerous or vicious dog cases.


Doggy Detinue
  • Detinue is a legal procedure to seek the return of your property when it is in the possession of another. See Va. Code Ann. §§ 8.01-114 to 8.01-123.
    • Often filled as a Warrant in Detinue in General District Court, or Small Claims Court, in Virginia.
    • To prevail, the plaintiff needs to prove that his or her ownership interest is greater than the ownership interest of the defendant.
  • In Virginia, pets are considered personal property. See Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6585. Therefore, the Warrant in Detinue is the proper procedure to recover a pet from a person who possesses the pet without the true owner's permission.
Dangerous & Vicious Dog Proceedings
  • Dangerous/vicious dog proceedings are quasi-criminal proceedings brought by the Commonwealth against the owner of a dog who has injured a person, in the case of the vicious dog proceedings, or another animal, in the case of dangerous dog proceedings. See Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6540 (dangerous dogs), § 3.2-6540.1 (vicious dogs)
  • Dangerous dog proceedings can result in significant costs to the owner and restrictions on the dog, including the requirement to wear a muzzle when in public.
  • Vicious dog proccedings, unfortunately, can result in the euthinasia of the dog, if the charge is upheld by a Virginia court.

The information on this page was last updated on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 6:51 PM


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