VA Law Increases Animal Abuse Penalties, Limits Abusers’ Access to Animals

Update: The bill, H.B. 281, is now law. As passed, the law increases the penalty for a second or subsequent violation of the animal care laws regarding an owner’s failure to provide adequate food, adequate water, adequate shelter, and adequate veterinary care from a Class 4 to a Class 2 misdemeanor. Penalties for a second or subsequent violation related to adequate space, adequate exercise, and adequate care, treatment and transportation are increased from a Class 4 to a Class 3 misdemeanor. The civil penalty for failure to sterilize a dog or cat adopted from a releasing agency is increased from $50 to $250. 

Original report: H.B. 281, found here, would increase penalties for animal cruelty. Failure to provide adequate food, water, shelter, exercise and veterinary care to companion animals under § 3.2-6503 would be a Class 2 misdemeanor instead of Class 4. Abandonment of animals under § 3.2-6504 would be a Class 2 instead of Class 3 misdemeanor.  Any misdemeanor animal cruelty violation under  3.2-6570 would mean at least 5 days in jail. 

Significantly, any person who violates § 3.2-6570, Virginia’s law prohibiting animal cruelty, shall be prohibited under this bill from possessing or owning companion animals. Go here for information about other state laws that restrict an abuser’s access to animals.

With stronger penalties, prosecutors are more likely to prosecute these crimes.

H.B. 281 also increases the fine for failing to spay/neuter animals adopted from shelters and rescues.

The bill is sponsored by Delegate David Albo.