Fairfax Animal Crimes Attorney
Defense for Individuals Charged with Animal Cruelty
Animal abuse and cruelty laws are strictly enforced in Virginia. If you have been charged with an animal crime or have learned you are under investigation, contact an attorney with experience handling similar cases. At The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC, our Fairfax animal crimes lawyer offers personalized legal representation to individuals facing misdemeanor or felony charges. We will fight hard to protect your rights and seek a favorable result on your behalf.
Contact our law firm at (703) 940-0001 for a free consultation in our office. We serve clients in Arlington, Prince William, Loudoun, and Alexandria.
Animal Crimes in Virginia
Virginia has passed a variety of laws designed to protect the safety of animals. These offenses often result in public outrage. Prosecutors vigorously pursue these types of cases and will work hard to land a conviction. That’s why it’s important to have an attorney on your side who will use every tool in their arsenal and explore every legal avenue to fight for a favorable outcome.
Most animal crimes result in misdemeanor charges, but some offenses as felonies.
Misdemeanor animal crimes in Virginia include:
- Class 1 Misdemeanor Animal Crimes: Cruelty to animals; violating standards for the transportation of animals; depriving an animal of food, shelter, water, or veterinary treatment; beating or killing an animal; killing a companion animal for its pelt; and unlawfully abandoning animals
- Class 3 Misdemeanor Animal Crimes: Pet dealers providing inadequate care of animals, or misrepresenting an animal’s condition
- Class 4 Misdemeanor Animal Crimes: Interfering with animal control agents protecting the safety of animals, shooting pigeons, improper disposal of a pet, and failing to adhere to leash laws
Certain animal crimes result in class 6 felony charges. These include torturing, mutilating, beating, or willfully inflicting injury or pain to a dog or cat that is a companion animal and dies or must be put down as a result of its injuries. Additionally, a second offense for a class 1 misdemeanor animal crime within 5 years will result in a class 6 felony charge.
Possible Criminal Penalties for Convictions
The specific penalties you may be facing depend on the charges. For example, a conviction for a class 1 misdemeanor animal crime can result in a maximum of 1 year in jail and fines of up to $2,500. In addition, a judge may sentence you to participate in psychological counseling or anger management treatment. You will be required to pay for the cost of these treatments.
Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, a conviction for an animal crime can have a severe impact on your future. You will have a criminal record, which can make it difficult for you to find a job or a place to live. Additionally, animal cruelty cases are often publicized in local newspapers, which could damage your reputation, even if you weren’t convicted. For these reasons, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
Potential Civil Penalties
You could face civil penalties for injuries caused by your dog if it has been deemed dangerous or vicious. According to Virginia law, a dangerous dog is one that has bitten, attacked, or injured a person or another companion animal. A vicious dog is one that has killed or caused serious injury to a person. The person injured or whose pet was harmed by your dog could file a lawsuit against you to recover compensation for damages they suffered, such as medical bills and other costs incurred to care for the injuries. Additionally, if your dog is deemed dangerous, you must register it as such with a local animal control agency. The cost of obtaining a dangerous dog certificate is $150 plus any additional fees.
If you are found to have abandoned, cruelly treated, or failed to provide adequate care for your dog, you may also face civil penalties. A law enforcement officer or another investigator, upon seizing your dog, may petition the court to declare you unfit to have pets. When the court receives such a petition, it will hold a hearing to determine whether or not you have committed the offenses you're accused of. If it grants the petition, you will be prohibited from possessing or owning the animal that was taken from you, as well as any others. After 2 years of the decision, you may petition the court to reconsider the prohibition.
Defenses to Animal Cruelty Charges
The appropriate defense strategy depends on the charges. Certain wildlife management activities and legal farming practices are not actually illegal. In addition, you have a right to defend your companion animal from an attack from dangerous dogs. If a dangerous animal was attacking your pet, hitting or hurting it could be considered self-defense.
We understand there are two sides to every story, and we take the time to get to know you and the facts of your circumstances. Our Fairfax animal crimes attorney will review your case and the evidence against you to determine an effective strategy for your defense.