Virginia is one of the few “one free bite” states left, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog gets to utilize that “one free bite” card. The “one free bite” rule only applies to civil liability cases – for instance, when the person who was bitten by a dog sues the dog’s owner for money damages.
With another kind of proceeding – the dangerous dog proceeding – the “one free bite” rule does not apply. In this type of proceeding, the Commonwealth brings a summons against the dog owner asking the court to declare the dog to be dangerous. In a dangerous dog case, your dog can be declared dangerous even if your dog has had no previous incidents, if that first bite is severe enough.
In civil liability cases, an injured person is trying to get money from you as the dog owner to cover the expense of the injury. In this type of a case, you would typically not be liable if your dog did not have some propensity to be aggressive or otherwise cause injury, or if you did not know of such a propensity. This is what is commonly called the “one free bite” rule.
If your dog has bitten another companion animal or human, it is important to reach out to an animal law attorney to understand the complexities of the law and to see your available options. Contact the experienced animal law lawyer at The Law Office of Heidi Meinzer, PLLC for a free consultation about your dog.