Dangerous & Vicious Dogs

Dog owners need to be aware of the regulations that govern vicious and dangerous dogs.

What are the legal definitions for dangerous and vicious dogs in Fairfax County?

Vicious dogs pertain to a canine or canine crossbreed that has:

  • Killed a person
  • Inflicted serious injury to a person, including multiple bites, serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious impairment of bodily function
  • Continued to exhibit behavior that resulted in a previous finding by a court that it is a dangerous dog

Dangerous dogs include any canine or canine crossbreed that has:

  • Bitten
  • Attacked
  • Inflicted injury on a person or companion animal
  • Killed a companion animal

Are there times when a dog that has bitten is not deemed dangerous?

A dog won’t be deemed dangerous, despite a bite, if:

  • The dog owner is engaging in lawful hunting
  • The dog owner is participating in an organized, lawful dog handling event

What happens if I have an incident involving a dog bite or attack?

  • Call Animal Control at 703-691-2131
  • The responding officer may confine the animal
  • The responding officer may let the owner confine the animal
  • The case may be brought to court, if the dog is deemed a threat to public safety

Are there certain breeds that are more dangerous?

No animal shall be deemed dangerous solely because of its breed.

What happens when my dog is labeled dangerous?

  • You must obtain a dangerous dog registration certificate from the Animal Services Division
  • Cost of the certificate is $100
  • Animal Services Division staff will provide you with a tag that must be worn on the dog’s collar at all times
  • The animal must be properly confined or enclosed in your yard
  • The residence, or property, must be posted with clearly visible signs warning minors and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog on the property
  • The animal must be permanently identified by means of a tattoo on the inside thigh or by electronic implant
  • You must have liability insurance coverage of at least $100,000 that covers animal bites.

How can I find out if there are any dangerous dogs in my neighborhood?

  • Virginia maintains a directory of dangerous dogs
  • Go to www.VDACS.Virginia.Gov
  • Scroll to the Dangerous Dog Registry

Are dogs in allowed to run free in Fairfax County?

  • Dogs are not allowed to roam free.
  • Exceptions include:
    • A dog under owners supervision while lawfully hunting
    • Engaged in an obedience training class or show
    • While in a Fairfax County-sanctioned off-leash or dog exercise area

What should I do if I see a dog running free in Fairfax County?

  • Call the non-emergency dispatch number, 703-691-2131
  • An Animal Control Officer must witness a violation for a law enforcement action to take place
  • Otherwise a citizen may secure a warrant

What will happen if my dog runs free and gets picked up by Animal Control Officers?

  • An unrestricted dog may be impounded (taken to the Animal Shelter)
  • If the owner is immediately located, the owner may be issued a summons


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