The Animals Aren’t the Only Thing to Fear, Know the Law to Survive an Animal Attack – Virginia

In our last newsletter, we shared three real-life stories of people fighting off a wild bear attack. These scenarios beg the question: How can a person legally defend themselves against an attacking animal?

We asked your Independent Program Attorney to answer this question for you, so you will know what to do if you are attacked by an animal.

In Virginia, the law of self-defense and defense of others applies when defend­ing against an animal attack. See Smith v. Commonwealth, 2013 Va. App. LEXIS 29 (Va. App. Ct. 2013). If you are without fault in provoking or bringing on the fight, and you reasonably fear that you are in imminent danger of being killed or in imminent danger of great bodily harm, and you use no more force than is reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the perceived harm under the circumstances as they appear to you, then your use of deadly force in self-defense is legally justified. See Virginia Model Jury Instruction 33.800. Self-Defense – Defendant Without Fault. Deadly force is also justified in the defense of another person when you reasonably believe that the person you are defending is not at fault in provoking the conflict and is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm based on the circumstances.


Wendy the walker is taking a casual afternoon walk by herself near her home in her friendly suburban retirement community. Suddenly, a pit bull dog manages to escape its fenced property and is aggressively running toward Wen­dy. The dog is aggressively barking, growling, and showing its teeth as it is directly approaching Wendy in a very rapid pace with its ears pulled back. Wendy quickly starts to dis­tance herself from the dog’s property attempting to create as much space as possible, but it is impossible to “outrun” the dog. The dog is now 2-3 seconds from Wendy’s posi­tion as she begins to frantically scream at the dog to stay away. Wendy is 65 years old, weighs 110 pounds, and le­gally carries a pistol with her concealed handgun permit.

What is Wendy to do? Does the dog have to actually bite Wendy be­fore she can use deadly force to defend herself? What would you do?

Example continued:

Wendy fires two quick shots at the dog at the last second based on her training from her local self-defense instruc­tor. The dog later dies from the gunshot wound.

Was Wendy’s use of deadly force in self-defense justified? As we have said, events like this will be thoroughly investigated by the law enforcement community. If the law enforcement community believes that Wendy used excessive force, then they may charge her with a cruelty to animals offense. It would then be up to the judge or jury hearing the case to determine if Wendy’s fear was reasonable, under the circumstances as they appeared to her, that she was in imminent danger of being killed or that she was in im­minent danger of great bodily harm. Also that she used no more force, under the circumstances as they appeared to her, than was reasonably necessary to protect herself from the perceived harm.

Every case is different. Some judges, jurors and prosecutors may take the position that Wendy’s fear was unreasonable. Some may take the position that Wendy’s force was excessive and that she should have tried kicking the dog first before using deadly force. Others may believe that what Wendy did was justified. The purpose of this example is to bring awareness to an all too common scenario and educate the law abiding gun owner that they are permitted to use deadly force to defend against an animal attack, just like de­fending against an attack from a person, however, the use of force must still be justified.

There was a recent lawful use of deadly force case where the shooter was defending another person from a vicious dog attack in Roanoke Virginia.

Federal law determines what amount of force, if any, is permitted in self-defense and defense of others regarding attacks on federal property such as national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. In accordance with the principles of self-de­fense, deadly force can only be used against animals while on feder­al land when you reasonably believe that the animal poses an immi­nent threat of death or serious bodily injury to yourself or another. This remains true even when the animal is protected by federal law. Federal statutes expressly allow for the use of deadly force against endangered species and other protected classifications when such force is used in self-defense and defense of others. See 16 U.S.C. § 1540(b)(3) (threatened or endangered species); 50 CFR 17.21(c)(2) (endangered species); 50 CFR 17.31(a) (threatened species).

To View the law for defense against animals in other states click on the state names below:








Select U.S. States and Federal Law 

Protect Your Loved Ones - Shop Now

I Defended My Loved One—My Pet Part 2 – Virginia

Paul Ready: Welcome back to Part II of our feature on defending your pets. In Part I, our member Clint was forced to defend his dog against an attack by another bigger dog. Many of you have asked what the law says about how and when you can defend your four-legged friends. The answer will be different depending on the law in your state. That’s why we’ve asked the Independent Program Attorneys in your state to tell us more.

In Part I, we saw the actions Clint took to defend his dog from being killed by the neighborhood stray. Now, in Part II you will learn if his actions followed the law. Watch Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor teach you the law, so you will know what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Ed Riley: In Virginia, you have the right to defend your domestic animal from attack, but the use of force must be reasonably and properly exercised. Focusing on this member situation, in Virginia Code Section 3.2-6570 Section F addresses it directly. If the dog or cat of the property owner is being attacked by another dog, whereas causing injury or death, then that property owner has the right to use reasonable and necessary force to protect his or her dog or cat

Paul: For more information on when you can use force in your state, please go to and register to attend one of our events in your area. If you missed Part I of Clint’s story, you can click the link on your screen to see it. And as always if you are not a member we would love for you to join us at

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now

The Restaurant Has a Bar. Can I Carry? Virginia

Spring Break is here, and everyone is thawing out after a long winter. Watch Independent Program Attorney Ed Riley instruct you on the law before walking into a restaurant or bar with your firearm.

What is the Law in Virginia for Bars and Guns?

Generally, alcohol and Firearms do not mix. In Virginia, there are a few key laws that you need to be aware of concerning alcohol and the carrying and possession of firearms in Virginia.

Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.012, you cannot conceal carry a handgun on the premises of a restaurant or bar that is controlled by the Virginia ABC Board and consume an alcoholic beverage. This statute also makes it illegal for any person licensed to conceal and carry a handgun to be under the influence and carry that handgun in a public place.

If convicted under this statute, your concealed carry permit will be revoked and you will not be eligible to reapply for that permit for five years. 

It’s important to note that most establishments that sell alcohol are licensed by the Virginia ABC Board, or privately owned. That means they are private property and the owner of such property has the right to ban firearms from their establishment.

Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now

Know Your Ammo – Virginia

There are so many varieties of ammunition on the market today, but not every type is perceived the same in the eyes of the law. Watch Independent Program Attorney Ed Riley explain how the type of ammo you use could affect you.  

Ed Riley: Hi, Ed Riley, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for Virginia. In this segment, we are going to discuss ammunition. Here are a view key points we want you to know about ammunition. Number one, if you cannot possess a firearm, most likely you cannot possess ammunition. A couple of examples would be, if you’re a felon or if you have been adjudicated mentally defective, or you’re a fugitive from justice. There are many others to consider, but if you can’t possess a firearm then the odds are very good you can’t possess ammunition.

Number two, as to the specifics of the ammunition, most of you LawShield members are buying ammunition from the same place you are buying most of your guns, which are big stores or federal licensed firearms dealers. So the odds of them selling ammunition that is not legal is pretty slim.

However, number three, under federal law, if you turn to 18 USC 921 it criminalizes armor-piercing shells or projectiles for handguns. Turning to Virginia law, Virginia code sec 18.2-308.3 criminalizes what is referred to as “restricted firearm ammunition.” For most of you watching, your ammunition is not going to be a problem because you are purchasing that ammunition from a federally licensed firearms dealer. The odds of them selling illegal ammunition is pretty remote. However, from those of you that are getting your ammunition from another source or making it yourself need to pay particular attention to these two code sections because they are very detailed about what’s illegal and what you can and can’t use in not only the federal arena but also the state of Virginia.

Protect Your Loved Ones - Shop Now

Virginia Legislative Update—What Are the Latest Gun Laws?

Virginia Legislative Update transcript

Hi, Ed Riley here again, U.S. LawShield® Independent Program Attorney for Virginia.

Today, we’re going to talk about some of the updates in the law with respect to firearms, that went into effect in Virginia on July 1 of 2017.

virginia legislative update
Independent Program Attorney Ed Riley

First one of those is § 18.2-308.2, which speaks specifically to whether a violent felon or any felon can possess a firearm. The change in that statute allows a nonviolent felon to possess an antique firearm or muzzle loader or up to five pounds of black powder, as long as it’s being used for sporting purposes.

A second area of change involves schools. Typically you cannot carry a firearm in a school. However, this change affects school security officers. And if you look to § 22.1-280.1:2, the main change is that if you are retired law enforcement officer, you can carry a gun, and there’s some other changes that involve training as well.

The third area of change is the concealed handgun permit itself. No longer is it required to have an application done under oath before a notary.

Now you need to have an official form of ID issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia, or it can be the Department of Defense, or a passport. Also changed was that the actual size of the permit shall be the size of Virginia driver’s license, and it may be laminated. Additionally, the change-of-address requirement for the permit has been changed to allow you to fill out a Virginia State Police form and submit that to the court for a re-issuance of the change-of-address permit.

The last area of change to the actual permit process is renewal. If a clerk has an electronic system as part of their renewal process then they may use that electronic system for notice with respect to when renewal can occur.

The final area of change from this session involves people who have had their rights to possess, purchase, or transport a firearm taken away because of mental health issues. These come under Virginia Code Sections § 18.2-308.1:1, :2, and :3. And the specific change is that, if you are an out-of-state resident, you can now petition the general district court where those rights were last removed.


Back to School: Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Virginia


Give the Gift of Protection; Shop Now