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Animal Abuse


A woman in Stephens City, Virginia was charged with one count of animal cruelty after a video of her kicking three dogs went viral, according to The Northern Virginia Daily. The woman was shown kicking the dogs out of frustration, and only one of the three was her own pet. According to Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Captain Aleck Beeman, “There’s a difference between disciplining a dog. You shouldn’t punch them in the head or the face, and according to the witness she was kicking them in the head. There’s nothing wrong with maybe a sharp tug on the chain or something but you can’t kick them in the ribs and hit them in the face. I think it’s common sense but I guess it isn’t. It’s the same with a child.” 

Class 1 Misdemeanors

The following actions against an animal are grounds for a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, according to statute § 3.2-6570. In addition to fines of up to $2,500 and 12 months in jail, which are the maximum penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor, the court may also impose psychological counseling or anger management treatment, both of which the accused may be forced to pay.

  • Overriding, overdriving, overloading, torturing, ill-treating, abandoning, willfully inflicting inhumane injury or pain that is not part of a scientific or medical experiment;
  • Cruelly or unnecessarily beating, killing, or maiming an animal;
  • Depriving an animal of food, shelter, water, or emergency veterinary treatment;
  • Soring an equine (administering drugs to cause pain to a horse’s front legs and feet), or masking soring for the purpose of selling or showing the equine;
  • Lassoing or ripping the legs of an equine in order to cause it to trip for purposes of a rodeo or entertainment;
  • Instigating or engaging in animal cruelty;
  • Killing a dog or cat to obtain the pelt;
  • Carrying or causing to carry an animal with any vehicle for the purposes to cause brutal or inhumane treatment or suffering; and
  • Being the owner of an animal and allowing for any of the above violations to occur.

A second offense of any of the above within a five year period is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Defenses to Animal Cruelty

Not all painful or even fatal actions towards animals are illegal. For example, euthanizing an old family pet at the end of its life via a veterinary visit is, of course, legal. Similarly, dehorning cattle in a reasonable and customary manner is not illegal. Sanctioned wildlife management activities, legal farming practices, as well as fishing or hunting activities, do not fall under this statute. If a dog attacks your dog or cat on your property, you have the right to use reasonable force to defend your pet during the time of the attack.

Class 6 Felonies

Torturing, willfully inflicting injury or pain, mutilating, or beating a dog or cat that is a companion animal to you or another person is a Class 6 felony if that animal dies or has to be put down by a veterinarian.

Call an Animal Cruelty Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing animal abuse charges, reach out to the attorneys of Simms Showers, LLP today at 703-771-4671. Our Leesburg, Fairfax, Winchester, or Manassas attorneys are eager to help you with your case.



Disclaimer: This legal alert is provided for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice particular to your situation. No recipients of this memo should act or refrain from acting solely on the basis of this memorandum without seeking professional legal counsel. Simms Showers LLP expressly disclaims all liability relating to actions taken or not taken based solely on the content of this memorandum. Please contact Caleb Kershner or Ben Mann at cak@simmsshowerslaw.com, wbm@simmsshowerslaw.com, or (703) 771-4671 for greater details concerning how this information may affect you.

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