Virginia Law Lets Citizens Kill Dogs Caught Killing Poultry

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It’s one of those laws that many probably don’t even know about, but it could come into play in a northern Virginia county.

According to, a law in Virginia allows for citizens to kill any dog caught in the act of killing or injuring poultry. After the fact, Virginia courts have the power to order animal control officers to kill any dog found to be a “confirmed poultry killer.”

The law was likely crafted to protect farmers and their livestock in rural areas, but could pose a problem in Arlington County if the county allows residents to raise egg-laying hens.

“That could really cause some problems between neighbors,” said Jim Pebley, of Backyards, Not Barnyards, a group against urban chickens in Arlington. “This just adds another reason why relaxing restrictions on raising poultry in residential areas is not a very good idea.”

The Huffington Post reports that Joan Schaffner, a professor at the George Washington University Law School specializing in animal law, said the Virginia law “would appear to apply” toward dogs that kill backyard chickens (rather than commercial operations), even though the law's drafters “did not anticipate backyard hens.”

Similar laws do exist in other states. notes that just a few weeks ago in the San Francisco area, two dogs were killed by the owner of chickens the dogs had just killed. The killing of the dogs would be legal under California law unless the dogs “suffered unduly,” in which case animal cruelty charges can be brought.

Sources:, Huffington Post