Animal Control

Animal Control Officers

Animal Control Officers are employed by the Sheriff's Office to enforce all state laws and any county ordinances for the protection of domestic animals. An Animal Control Officer receives training governed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the State Veterinarian Office.

They must attend a basic specialized training course for 84 hours and they must receive 15 hours of additional training every three (3) years. Animal Control Officers are Deputy Sheriffs and have received cross training for this function as well.


The main complaints that are handled by Animal Control Officers are: running at large, animal cruelty, welfare check, check on injured or sick animals, take custody of abandoned animals, wildlife calls, rabid animal calls, and other miscellaneous animal related calls.

Animal Cruelty

Animal cruelty (Virginia Code Section 3.2-6570) is defined as "any person who: (i) overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures, ill-treats, abandons, willfully inflicts inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation, or cruelty or unnecessarily beats, maims, mutilates, or kills any animal, whether belonging to himself or another: (ii) deprives any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter or emergency veterinary treatment".

Virginia Code 3.2-6503 is the section of law that prescribes the care that each owner of a companion animal must provide.

Dangerous Animals

A dangerous dog is a canine or canine crossbreed that has bitten, attacked, or inflicted injury on a person or companion animal that is a dog or cat, or killed a companion animal that is a dog or cat. However, when a dog attacks or bites a companion animal that is a dog or cat, the attacking biting dog shall not be deemed dangerous if:

  • No serious physical injury as determined by a licensed vet has occurred to the dog or cat as a result of the attack or bite
  • Both dogs are owned by the same person
  • Such attack occurs on the property of the attacking or biting dog's owner or custodian
  • For other good cause as determined by the court

No dog shall be found to be a dangerous dog as a result of biting, attacking or inflicting injury on another dog while engaged with an owner or custodian as part of lawful hunting or participating in an organized, lawful dog handling event.