States Try to Weigh Safety With Dog Owners’ Rights

Dangerous Dog Registry is Latest Effort

Virginia has a Web site that lets citizens find dogs in their
county that have attacked a person or an animal and which a
judge has decided could cause injury again. The Virginia
Dangerous Dog Registry, modeled after the state’s sex-offender
registry, displays their mug shots, misdeeds, and addresses.

However, despite reports in the national press about the
killings of a toddler and an elderly woman in Virginia, the law
protects dog owners from liability for a first attack. Virginia is
one of 17 states that have a “One Free Bite Rule.” In other
words, the injured person must show that the dog owner knew
or should have known that the animal was dangerous by
presenting proof of prior bites! If you are the victim of a dog’s
first attack, in Virginia, the defendant might not be found

In a case involving an elderly Virginia woman who was
knocked down by a dog, we were able to get her compensation
by showing that the dog had nipped at neighbors and had other
“prior bad acts.” The Fairfax County Circuit Court judge noted
that we did not need to show a prior bite, only that the owners
had notice as to the dog’s dangerous propensities.

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