The Virginia law that allows dogs to be shot for attacking chickens could be changed thanks to legislation proposed in the General Assembly.
Del. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat representing Richmond, says she will introduce a bill that would change the law, intended for chicken farms, for urban chickens, according to Style Weekly. Richmond legalized keeping up to four backyard hens in residential areas last April.
“I think we can agree if we’re in a densely populated urban area that it’s not a good idea to have people killing each other’s pets,” McClellan told the Richmond population. She also said that in areas where “chickens are a luxury, not a livelihood, it isn’t clear that a hen’s right to life trumps that of a hungry dog’s.”
Virginia law section § 3.2-6552 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.” McClellan’s bill would allow localities to enact ordinances overruling that provision.
There’s a competing law that may also be introduced strengthening chicken protections, which would remove the cap on the amount of money a chicken owner can recoup if its chicken is killed by a dog. The cap is currently set at $10.
The Arlington County Board has been mulling whether to allow backyard hens in denser urban areas for the better part of a year. In November, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended against taking action to allow more hens in the county. A plurality of Arlington’s Urban Agriculture Task Force recommended hens be allowed in larger backyards, one of 27 recommendations the task force made in a presentation in June.
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