November 2008
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The Virginia Animal Cruelty Law

The Virginia animal cruelty law protects all cats—pet, stray, feral, or otherwise—from cruel or unnecessary killing. Sections of the Virginia animal cruelty law are posted below; portions particularly relevant to cats are in bold.

Va. Code Ann. § 3.1-796.66 (2008) – Definitions

The following words as used in this chapter shall have the following meanings:

“Animal” means any nonhuman vertebrate species except fish. For the purposes of § 3.1-796.98, animal means any species susceptible to rabies. For the purposes of § 3.1-796.122, animal means any nonhuman vertebrate species including fish except those fish captured and killed or disposed of in a reasonable and customary manner…

“Companion animal” means any domestic or feral dog, domestic or feral cat, nonhuman primate, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit not raised for human food or fiber, exotic or native animal, reptile, exotic or native bird, or any feral animal or any animal under the care, custody, or ownership of a person or any animal that is bought, sold, traded, or bartered by any person. Agricultural animals, game species, or any animals regulated under federal law as research animals shall not be considered companion animals for the purposes of this chapter…

“Humane” means any action taken in consideration of and with the intent to provide for the animal’s health and well-being…

Va. Code Ann. § 3.1-796.122 (2008) – Cruelty to animals, penalty

A. Any person who (i) overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures, ill-treats, abandons, willfully inflicts inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation, or cruelly or unnecessarily beats, maims, mutilates, or kills any animal, whether belonging to himself or another; (ii) deprives any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter or emergency veterinary treatment; (iii) sores any equine for any purpose or administers drugs or medications to alter or mask such soring for the purpose of sale, show, or exhibition of any kind, unless such administration of drugs or medications is within the context of a veterinary client-patient relationship and solely for therapeutic purposes; (iv) willfully sets on foot, instigates, engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal; (v) carries or causes to be carried in or upon any vehicle, vessel or otherwise any animal in a cruel, brutal, or inhumane manner, so as to produce torture or unnecessary suffering; or (vi) causes any of the above things, or being the owner of such animal permits such acts to be done by another, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor

F. In addition to the penalties provided in subsection A, the court may, in its discretion, require any person convicted of a violation of subsection A to attend an anger management or other appropriate treatment program or obtain psychiatric or psychological counseling. The court may impose the costs of such a program or counseling upon the person convicted…

I. Any person convicted of violating this section may be prohibited by the court from possession or ownership of companion animals.