It is common for states and cities to pass laws restricting or prohibiting ownership of certain breeds of dogs. These laws are passed for safety purposes in an effort to prevent serious and fatal dog bite injuries. For this reason, the restricted breeds are those that are most often involved in violent and deadly dog attacks, such as pit bulls, American bulldogs and wolf-dog hybrids.
West Virginia does not have any statewide or universal restrictions on dog breeds. The State of West Virginia does not prohibit the keeping or ownership of any type of dog. However, several cities currently have bans or restrictions on dogs that are deemed vicious or dangerous. They include:
In cities where certain breeds are declared vicious or dangerous, anyone who owns these dogs must obey specific laws for keeping and controlling them. Typically, these dogs are not permitted to be off-leash and must be muzzled in public. Cities that have banned certain breeds generally allow citizens who already own these dogs to keep them as long as the pets are registered.
It is a pet owner’s responsibility to ensure that he or she does not purchase, adopt or acquire a dog breed that is banned or prohibited in his or her city. Doing so could lead to repercussions such as a fee and the seizure or destruction of the dog. The owner of a restricted breed must know and obey municipal laws, such as muzzling. Breaking them can lead to fines and other consequences.
If a restricted or banned dog attacks someone, the consequences can include the humane euthanasia of the dog. This is also the case if the dog is not a restricted or prohibited breed. West Virginia Code 19-20D-1 states that if a dog attack results in required medical treatment of $2,000 or more, or if the dog engaged in two or more separate attacks in the last 12 months, a hearing can be held to determine if the dog should be humanely euthanized.
Any dog breed in West Virginia can be deemed “dangerous” if it bites or attacks someone. Under WV Code 19-20-20, a dog that has been deemed dangerous or vicious (typically, one that is in the habit of biting or attacking people) is not allowed to be kept or harbored in the state. The courts may authorize a humane officer to euthanize such dogs. Otherwise, the owner of the dog will be required to purchase a special license from the county to keep the dog, for the purpose of protection.
Leash laws are similar to breed restrictions in that West Virginia does not have a universal law, but cities can make their own rules for when dogs must be leashed. The state does, however, have a law that places strict liability for a dog bite injury on the owner if the owner allowed the dog to run at large (WV Code 19-20-13). Running at large means that the animal is off the premises of the owner and is not under the owner’s control.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack in West Virginia, discuss your legal options with a West Virginia injury lawyer from Manchin Injury Law Group. We can help you navigate all of the state and local laws that apply to your case.