Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 3.2. Agriculture, Animal Care, and Food
10/29/2020

Article 7. Animal Control Officers and Humane Investigators.

§ 3.2-6555. Position of animal control officer created.

The governing body of each county or city shall, or each town may, employ an officer to be known as the animal control officer who shall have the power to enforce this chapter, all ordinances enacted pursuant to this chapter and all laws for the protection of domestic animals. The governing body may also employ one or more deputy animal control officers to assist the animal control officer in the performance of his duties. Animal control officers and deputy animal control officers shall have knowledge of the animal control and protection laws of the Commonwealth that they are required to enforce. When in uniform or upon displaying a badge or other credentials of office, animal control officers and deputy animal control officers shall have the power to issue a summons or obtain a felony warrant as necessary, providing the execution of such warrant shall be carried out by any law-enforcement officer as defined in § 9.1-101, to any person found in the act of violating any such law or any ordinance enacted pursuant to such law of the locality where the animal control officer or deputy animal control officer is employed. Commercial dog breeding locations shall be subject to inspection by animal control at least twice annually and additionally upon receipt of a complaint or their own motion to ensure compliance with state animal care laws and regulations. The animal control officer and the deputy animal control officers shall be paid as the governing body of each locality shall prescribe.

Any locality where an animal control officer or deputy animal control officers have been employed may contract with one or more additional localities for enforcement of animal protection and control laws by the animal control officers or deputy animal control officers. Any such contract may provide that the locality employing the animal control officer or deputy animal control officers shall be reimbursed a portion of the salary and expenses of the animal control officer or deputy animal control officers.

Every locality employing an animal control officer shall submit to the State Veterinarian, on a form provided by him, information concerning the employment and training status of the animal control officers employed by the locality. The State Veterinarian may require that the locality notify him of any change in such information.

1984, cc. 254, 492, § 29-213.73; 1987, c. 488, § 3.1-796.104; 1998, c. 817; 2003, c. 804; 2004, c. 181; 2008, cc. 852, 860.

§ 3.2-6556. Training of animal control officers.

A. Every locality employing animal control officers shall require that every animal control officer and deputy animal control officer completes the following training:

1. A basic animal control course that has been approved by the State Veterinarian. The basic animal control course shall include training in recognizing suspected child abuse and neglect and information on how complaints may be filed and shall be approved and implemented. Any animal control officer hired on or after July 1, 1998, and before July 1, 2017, shall complete the basic animal control course within two years from the date of hire. Any animal control officer hired on or after July 1, 2017, shall complete the basic animal control course within one year from the date of hire or within two years if the officer is attending a law-enforcement academy; and

2. Every three years, additional training approved by the State Veterinarian, 15 hours of which shall be training in animal control and protection.

The State Veterinarian shall develop criteria to be used in approving training courses and shall provide an opportunity for public comment on proposed criteria before the final criteria are adopted.

Subdivision 1 shall not apply to animal control officers or deputy animal control officers hired before July 1, 1998. The State Veterinarian may grant exemptions from the requirements of subdivision 1 to animal control officers hired on or after July 1, 1998, based on the animal control officer's previous training.

The State Veterinarian shall work to ensure the availability of these training courses through regional criminal justice training academies or other entities as approved by him. Based on information provided by authorized training entities, the State Veterinarian shall maintain the training records for all animal control officers for the purpose of documenting and ensuring that they are in compliance with this subsection.

B. Upon cause shown by a locality, the State Veterinarian may grant additional time during which the training required by subsection A may be completed by an animal control officer for the locality.

C. Any animal control officer that fails to complete the training required by subsection A shall be removed from office, unless the State Veterinarian has granted additional time as provided in subsection B.

1998, c. 817, § 3.1-796.104:1; 2002, c. 418; 2004, c. 181; 2008, c. 860; 2016, cc. 60, 172.

§ 3.2-6557. Animal control officers and humane investigators; limitations; records; penalties.

A. No animal control officer, humane investigator, humane society, or custodian of any public or private animal shelter shall (i) obtain the release or transfer of an animal by the animal's owner to such animal control officer, humane investigator, humane society, or custodian for personal gain or (ii) give or sell or negotiate for the gift or sale to any individual, pet shop, dealer, or research facility of any animal that may come into his custody in the course of carrying out his official assignments. No animal control officer, humane investigator, or custodian of any public or private animal shelter shall be granted a dealer's license. Violation of this subsection is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Nothing in this section shall preclude any animal control officer or humane investigator from lawfully impounding any animal pursuant to § 3.2-6569.

B. An animal control officer, law-enforcement officer, humane investigator, or custodian of any public or private animal shelter, upon taking custody of any animal in the course of his official duties, or any representative of a humane society, upon obtaining custody of any animal on behalf of the society, shall immediately make a record of the matter. Such record shall include:

1. The date on which the animal was taken into custody;

2. The date of the making of the record;

3. A description of the animal, including the animal's species, color, breed, sex, approximate age, and approximate weight;

4. The reason for taking custody of the animal and the location where custody was taken;

5. The name and address of the animal's owner, if known;

6. Any license or rabies tag, tattoo, collar, or other identification number carried by or appearing on the animal; and

7. The disposition of the animal.

Records required by this subsection shall be maintained for at least five years and shall be available for public inspection upon request. A summary of such records shall be submitted annually to the State Veterinarian in a format prescribed by him.

C. Any animal control officer, law-enforcement officer, humane investigator, or custodian of any public or private animal shelter who takes custody of animals in the course of his official duties or representative of a humane society who takes custody of animals on behalf of the society shall annually file with the State Veterinarian a copy of his intake policy.

D. Any animal control officer or custodian of any public animal shelter who violates any provision of this chapter that relates to the seizure, impoundment, and custody of animals by an animal control officer may be subject to suspension or dismissal from his position.

E. Custodians and animal control officers engaged in the operation of a public animal shelter shall be required to have knowledge of the laws of the Commonwealth governing animals, including this chapter, as well as basic animal care.

1984, c. 492, § 29-213.74; 1986, c. 315; 1987, c. 488, § 3.1-796.105; 1991, c. 65; 1993, c. 601; 1997, c. 286; 1998, c. 817; 2008, c. 860; 2014, c. 148; 2016, c. 678.

§ 3.2-6558. Humane investigators; qualifications; appointment; term.

A. A circuit court may reappoint any person as a humane investigator for any locality within its jurisdiction if the person:

1. Was appointed as a humane investigator prior to July 1, 2003; and

2. Has never been convicted of animal cruelty or neglect, any felony, or any crime of moral turpitude according to a criminal background check, which shall be performed by the attorney for the Commonwealth at the expense of the person seeking the appointment.

B. A circuit court may appoint a person to fill a vacancy in that jurisdiction created when a humane investigator who was appointed prior to July 1, 2003, is no longer willing or eligible to be a humane investigator, provided the person seeking appointment:

1. Has received a written recommendation from the administrative entity that oversees animal control in the locality where the humane investigator seeks appointment;

2. Has never been convicted of animal cruelty or neglect, any felony, or any crime of moral turpitude according to a criminal background check, which shall be performed by the attorney for the Commonwealth at the expense of the person seeking the appointment; and

3. Has completed a basic animal control course approved by the State Veterinarian pursuant to § 3.2-6556.

C. A person residing outside the Commonwealth may be appointed as a humane investigator only if he is employed by a humane society located within the locality where he is seeking appointment.

D. Reappointments of humane investigators shall be for terms of three years. Each humane investigator shall, during each term for which he is appointed, complete 15 hours of training in animal care and protection approved for animal control officers. If a humane investigator is appointed to a succeeding term before or within 30 days after his current term expires, a criminal background check shall not be required. If a humane investigator's term expires and he is not appointed to a succeeding term before or within 30 days after his current term expires, the humane investigator shall not be appointed to another term.

1984, c. 492, § 29-213.75; 1987, c. 488, § 3.1-796.106; 1998, c. 817; 2003, c. 858; 2004, c. 181; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-6559. Powers and duties of humane investigators.

A. Any humane investigator may, within the locality where he has been appointed, investigate violations of laws and ordinances regarding care and treatment of animals and disposal of dead animals.

B. Each humane investigator shall carry during the performance of his powers and duties under this chapter an identification card issued by the locality where the humane investigator is appointed. The identification card shall include the following information regarding the humane investigator:

1. His full name;

2. The locality where he has been appointed;

3. The name of the circuit court that appointed him;

4. The signature of the circuit court judge that appointed him;

5. A photograph of his face; and

6. The date of expiration of his appointment.

C. Each humane investigator shall record on a form approved by the administrative entity that oversees animal control every investigation he performs, maintain such record for five years, and make such record available upon request to any law-enforcement officer, animal control officer or State Veterinarian's representative. Each humane investigator shall file quarterly a report summarizing such records with the administrative agency that oversees animal control on an approved form. A humane investigator's appointment may be revoked as provided in § 3.2-6561 if he fails to file such report.

1998, c. 817, § 3.1-796.106:2; 2003, c. 858; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-6560. Expenses of humane investigators.

Neither the appointment of any humane investigator, nor the performance of any service or duty by him, shall require any locality or the Commonwealth to pay any cost or expense incurred by or on behalf of a humane investigator. Any locality may reimburse any humane investigator appointed for that locality for reasonable expenses incurred as the result of a specific request for services from the locality.

1984, c. 492, § 29-213.79; 1986, c. 362; 1987, c. 488, § 3.1-796.110; 1998, c. 817; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-6561. Revocation of appointment of humane investigators.

A. Upon a motion by the attorney for the Commonwealth, the circuit court that appointed a humane investigator may revoke his appointment if he is no longer able to perform the duties of a humane investigator; has been convicted of any felony, Class 1 misdemeanor, or a violation of any provision of this chapter or any other law regarding animals; or for good cause shown. The court shall notify the administrative entity that oversees animal control in the locality where the humane investigator was appointed of such revocation.

B. Any law-enforcement officer may investigate any allegation that a humane investigator has violated this chapter and report his findings and recommendations to the attorney for the Commonwealth.

1998, c. 817, § 3.1-796.106:1; 1999, c. 376; 2003, c. 858; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-6562. Capturing, confining, and euthanizing companion animals by animal control officers; approval of drugs used.

It shall be the duty of the animal control officer or any other officer to capture and confine any companion animal of unknown ownership found running at large on which the license fee has not been paid. Following the expiration of the holding period prescribed in § 3.2-6546, the animal control officer or other officer may deliver such companion animal to any person in his jurisdiction who will pay the required license fee on such companion animal. Prior to disposition by euthanasia or otherwise, all the provisions of § 3.2-6546 shall have been complied with. For all companion animals not otherwise disposed of as provided for in this chapter, it shall be the duty of the animal control officer or any other officer to euthanize such companion animals. Any person, animal control officer, or other officer euthanizing a companion animal under this chapter shall cremate, bury, or sanitarily dispose of the same.

All drugs and drug administering equipment used by animal control officers or other officers to capture companion animals pursuant to this chapter shall have been approved by the State Veterinarian.

1984, c. 492, § 29-213.88; 1987, c. 488, § 3.1-796.119; 1991, c. 348; 1997, c. 159; 1998, c. 817; 2008, c. 860.

§ 3.2-6562.1. Rabies exposure; local authority and responsibility plan.

The local health director, in conjunction with the governing body of the locality, shall adopt a plan to control and respond to the risk of rabies exposure to persons and companion animals. Such plan shall set forth a procedure that promptly ensures the capture, confinement, isolation, or euthanasia of any animal that has exposed, or poses a risk of exposing, a person or companion animal to rabies. The plan shall identify the authority and responsibility of the local health department, law-enforcement officers, animal control officers, and any other persons with a duty to control or respond to a risk of rabies exposure. The plan shall provide for law-enforcement officers, animal control officers, and other persons to report to and be directed by the local health director for such purposes.

2010, c. 834.

§ 3.2-6563. When animals to be euthanized; procedure.

Any humane investigator may lawfully cause to be euthanized any animal in his charge or found abandoned or not properly cared for when, in the judgment of the humane investigator and two reputable citizens called to view the same in his presence, and who shall give their written certificate, the animal appears to be injured, disabled or diseased, past recovery, or the injury, disease or disability is such that a reasonable owner would cause the animal to be euthanized.

Any humane investigator shall make every reasonable effort immediately to notify the owner of the animal that the humane investigator intends for the animal to be euthanized. The owner shall have a right to select one of the two reputable citizens called to view the animal and give written certificate of the animal's condition. In no event shall the determination as to disposition of the animal be delayed beyond 48 hours after such humane investigator first decides the animal should be euthanized. In the event that the two citizens called to give such certificate are unable to agree, they shall select a third reputable citizen and his decision shall be final.

1984, c. 492, § 29-213.83; 1986, c. 362; 1987, c. 488, § 3.1-796.114; 1998, c. 817; 2008, c. 860.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of these sections may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.

The Virginia General Assembly is offering access to the Code of Virginia on the Internet as a service to the public. We are unable to assist users of this service with legal questions nor respond to requests for legal advice or the application of the law to specific facts. Therefore, to understand and protect your legal rights, you should consult an attorney.

The Code of Virginia online database excludes material copyrighted by the publisher, Michie, a division of Matthew Bender. Copyrighted material includes annotations and revisors' notes, which may be found in the print version of the Code of Virginia. Annotated print copies of the Code of Virginia are available in most Virginia public library systems, from LexisNexis (1-800-446-3410), and from West, a Thomson-Reuters business (1-800-344-5008).