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Animal Related Laws

Effective July 1, 2019, changes were made to Virginia's Comprehensive Animal Care laws. These changes will be reflected in the enforcement of Prince William County Animal Control. 

Animal cruelty

State Code 3.2-6500 now includes a definition for the requirement to tether companion animals.  The tether must be three times the length of the animal's body, or 10 feet in length, whichever is longer.  The tether can not cause injury or pain and the tether itself or objects connected to the tether cannot weigh more than 1/10 of the animal's body weight.  It is not considered tethering when the animals is being walked on leash.  This law does not apply to agricultural animals.

State Code 3.2-6500 includes that adequate shelter in hot weather must have shade provided and the structure cannot readily conduct heat. Adequate shelter in cold weather must have a windbreak at the entrance and sufficient bedding material. Proper bedding material includes straw, cedar shavings or similar materials. 

Animal cruelty charges now have a penalty increase from a Class 1 Misdemeanor to a Class 6 Felony if the person who tortures, causes pain, or injury, beats, maims or mutilates a cat or dogs that are companion animals and those acts result in serious bodily injury, death, or require euthanasia under the advice of a licensed veterinarian. Serious bodily harm is defined as an injury that results in a high risk of death, extreme physical pain, significant disfigurement or significant physical or mental impairment. 

Animal Control Officers are permitted to confiscate a tethered cock or any other animal if it has been used, is currently used, or is intended to be used for fighting.  If the owner of the animal is found guilty, they are prohibited from owning companion animals or fowl. 

The definition of livestock includes animals belonging to the genus Vicugna (alpacas).

Dangerous dog (State code 3.2-6540)

After the evidence is presented in court; the court may defer the formal judgment of declaring a dog "dangerous" to a later court proceeding.  During the deferment period the dog's owners will have to abide by certain conditions set by the court. If the owner meets all requirements set by the court during the deferment period, the charges will be dismissed, and the dog will not be deemed dangerous. If the owner fails to meet the conditions set by the court the dog will be deemed dangerous and be required to follow the regulations for owning a dangerous dog. 

Dogs running at large in packs (State code 3.2-6538 | County code 4-23)

Governing localities may levy a fine, not to exceed $100 per dog, against the owners of dog(s) running at large in a pack.

County code defines a dog as at large when it is off the property of the owner/custodian and not under control by rope, leash or chain. 

Running in a pack is defined as when two or more dogs are found together, and each dog meets the criteria for running at large.  This ordinance excludes hunting dogs.  In Prince William County the owner/custodian will be required to produce a valid hunting license to exclude hunting dogs.

To report any violations please contact the Prince William County Public Safety Communications Center at 703-792-6500. 

In Prince William County it is against the law to: 

  • Allow animals to create noise such that it is audible at least once a minute for ten consecutive minutes (Section 14-5.1, Prince William County Code).
  • Allow your animal to trespass on someone's property after being requested by the owner of the property not to trespass (Section 4-4, Prince William County Code). Get a Trespassing Animals Form.
  • Allow your animal to knowingly or willfully urinate or defecate on private property of other persons or on publicly owned property except parts of parks posted as dog run areas (Section 4-11 & 4-26).
  • Own a dog four months or older and not obtain a County dog license that your dog is required to wear, and a collar bearing said license (Section 4-46, Prince William County Code).
  • Have knowledge of an animal which has bitten someone and not immediately notify an Animal Control Officer (Section 4-64, Prince William County Code) at 703-792-6500.

 What About Cats?

  • Most of the above laws apply to cats as well as dogs.
  • There is no leash law for cats, but they DO fall under the same trespass laws as dogs: (Section 4-4, Prince William County Code). Get a Trespassing Animals Form.
  • Cats may be allowed outdoors but they must be current on their rabies vaccinations.



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