Dangerous Dogs — What Cyclists Should Do

In July 2008 VBF announced an upcoming campaign to inform bicyclists and dog owners of the dangers of dogs running loose. We are now asking for your help to bring this important information to bicyclists around Virginia. There are two parts to this campaign.

First is an information article written by Bud Vye, VBF Vice President, that explains the law pertaining to dangerous dogs, and VBF’s recommendations on how to respond when you are injured as the result of actions by a dog, whether a bite or being knocked down. Full text of the article follows below, or you can download and print this file:

Dangerous Dogs — What To Do If Injured (PDF)

The second part of the campaign is aimed at dog owners who allow their dogs to run loose. We encourage all bicyclists to download and print the Dangerous Dog Hang Tags, fold them and keep them in your tool pouch or jersey pocket. When you are chased by a dog, fill in the information indicated and hang the tag from a mail box (outside of the box) or other location where the dog owner will find the tag.

Dangerous Dog Hang Tag, Tall Style (PDF)

Dangerous Dog Hang Tag, Wide Style (PDF)

VBF encourages clubs and organizations to make these files available to their members by linking to the this page, or by posting the files directly on the club/organization web site. The material may also be reproduced in club/ organization newsletters.

If we all work together we can reduce the incidence of injuries caused by unrestrained dogs.

Dangerous Dogs — What To Do If Injured

by Bud Vye

A 2006 Virginia law provides for the registration of dangerous dogs and establishes penalties for owners of dangerous dogs who do not comply with registration and confinement requirements.

The Virginia Bicycling Federation (VBF) urges bicyclists to report dangerous dogs to law enforcement authorities to make our roads safer for everyone.

This law is relatively new, so bicyclists must know the law to effectively coach police, animal control officers, and judges through the steps needed to have a dangerous dog registered as such. Thus, VBF encourages all bicyclists to print the act [ or] and read it closely.

The law defines a “dangerous dog” as a dog that “has bitten, attacked, or inflicted injury on a person”, whereas a “vicious dog” is a dog that “has killed a person, inflicted serious injury, or continued to exhibit behavior that resulted in a previous finding that it is a dangerous dog”.

There are serious consequences for a dog owner when a dog is declared “dangerous”, including registering the dog with the Dangerous Dog Registry; paying the registration fee; maintaining $100,000 in liability insurance coverage; and conforming to confinement, leashing and muzzling requirements. Should the dog repeat the dangerous behavior or should a dog be declared vicious, the court may order the dog euthanized.

If you are bitten by a dog, the law requires that a law-enforcement or animal control officer “… apply to a magistrate of the jurisdiction for the issuance of a summons requiring the owner … to appear before court, etc.”

Because it is often difficult to contact animal control officers, VBF suggests that bicyclists who encounter a dangerous dog call 911 to report an “attack” to the responding law enforcement officer(s) and ask them to contact the animal control officer. A cyclist who has been bitten can certainly make a case for a dog to be declared “dangerous”; and a cyclist whose bike has been run into, or under, by a dog, and caused to fall, could make a good case that they have been “attacked”. If, however, the dog has run at your bike, but not bitten or caused you to fall, enforcement officials are unlikely to declare a dog “dangerous”.

Please notify Bud Vye [] if you contact law enforcement officials about a dog attack, so that VBF can document dog attacks against bicyclists.

There may be some effort and inconvenience involved in waiting for police and/or animal control to arrive at the scene, and appearing in court later. However, if we, the bicycling community, can track and publicize these judgments, we hope owners of these dogs will better control their animals, resulting in fewer dogs interfering with, chasing, and attacking bicyclists.

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35 comments… add one
  • One problem with the “dangerous dog notification” tag. If I was being chased by a dog, I think the last thing I would want to do is stop and fill out a form to hang on the dog owner’s mailbox. My primary concern would be to get away from the dog, not stop and risk getting bitten.

  • I totally agree with Brad. I don’t think the person who came up with the dog notification tag was thinking clearly at the time.

  • If the dog is still threatening you, come back later when it isn’t. In most cases the danger isn’t being bitten. It’s that the dog may give chase, get under your wheels, and cause a crash. The remedy is to alert the dog’s owner, and the authorities, before the dog causes injury to someone else. Our hang tags give people a place to start.

  • From my experience as a dog owner with leashed dogs who nonetheless will lunge at cyclists if I haven’t seen them in advance and cleared the path, dogs chase cyclists but it is the bicycles, the turning wheels really, that seem to be to draw, not the people. I understand that you can’t tell if a dog is vicious or not when they are chasing you but cyclists that are not fearful will stop and often that is the end of the problem. The best strategy is to alert the owner, with a bell preferably, if they are leashed dogs or in control of their owner so that they will remain in control. If the dogs are loose steer wide around them or walk. Try to dismount before the dogs get upset. It defeats the bike ride but it could save injury. Usually stray dogs that bite and need to be outrun are not roaming around (my take). It is the bicycle that inspires them.

  • I have a permit and carry a .357 pistol. On a public right of way or land, the first time, will be the last time your dog attacks anybody.

  • Enclosed is a link to a blog written by someone who has traveled all over the world including many places where dogs roam free in packs. While the chance of getting bitten is real, the fear of getting bitten, and the cyclist’s anger, is what defeats most cyclists. The truth is that the real danger is from falling.

    For DawgKiller:


    “In Virginia, it is now a felony to kill a companion animal even if it’s on your property (also known as the T-Bone law – named after a dog killed by someone other than its owner). The law is less than a decade old now I believe – or close to that.
    Individuals have been prosecuted on this charge and have received as much as 10 years in prison.
    � 18.2-144. Maiming, killing or poisoning animals, fowl, etc. “

  • Well of course just shooting a dog would be an offense but I will bet that if a dog is chasing someone and that person fears for there safety and kills the animal they will not see a day in court. 10 Years in jail for killing a dog yeah maybe 1 case and it wouldn’t have been 1 animal people kill people and can go to jail for 4 years. I love dogs I have 2 but I keep mine safetly contained and that is the responsible thing to do. If you are walking your dog and can’t hold them that is irresponsible. Lets not put an animal equal with a human thats when you lose control of your animal. The way i see it is if your dog gets shot because it scared someone then it is your fault and the owner will be held liable and can and usially do end up paying in court for their pets damage just be responsible everyone

  • Hey Madmat,

    I’m not condoning irresponsible dog ownership. But I am hoping that cyclists behave responsibly. I’m a avid cyclist who logs hundreds of miles. Dogs and babies in my path are very dangerous. Young kids on bikes and motorists on cell phones are extra scary. I try to control what I can. That includes giving audible warnings.

    If somebody buzzes me on their bicycles with less than 3′ of clearance and my dogs bite them, it is their fault unless they didn’t see me. Also, unless a dog is truly vicious, walking a bicycle in tight quarters with dogs will save your legs. Why encourage violence?

    Lastly, people with anger management problems should not carry guns. If you shoot a dog because you are scared you could shoot a person because you are scared. Not a good time to make a life or death decision.

  • I was riding my bicycle today on a public road in rural Amherst county. Va, when a doberman charged me at full speed, barking and showing its teeth in a very threatening manner. It caused me to take immediate evasive action, going to the other side of the road and peddling like there was no tomorrow. It chased me several hundred yars until I outran it, but for the entire time it was within 1 ft. of my leg. When Iold the sheriff deputy that the next time it occured, that I’d defend myself with a 9mm, that I have a CCW for. He told me that if I shot the dog that they would revoke my CCW license. The dog owner told the deputy over the phone that their dog routinely chased all vehicles passing by, and then lied to the officr stating their dog was a mixed breed, when anyone could see that it is a full blooded doberman. I’m calling the sheriff tomorrow to discuss the dialog I had with his deputy, and also requesting animalcontrol to investigate the dog to determine that it is indeed a full bred doberman. Any helpful info is appreciated.

  • Find out the local laws. Find out what the penalty for a dog bite is in that locality. Find out what the leash laws are. Dog breed has nothing to do with it unless a breed is prohibited in that locality. Find out if the dog has ever bitten someone. That could help your case. If the dog has never bitten then it is hard to do anything. Perhaps there is a way to prove that the dog caused a hazard? I’ve had to report kids that threw things that almost caused me to crash and the police took it seriously.

    Dogs can’t talk so all they have is their bark and their bite. You are lucky to have outrun the dog although you probably just rode out of the dog’s territory. Most people can’t ride faster than a dog can run and so it really is better just to stop and act big and hope it works. You will be bitten anyhow unless you are a great rider if the dog is truly vicious. Get off on the side opposite the dog and use the bike as a shield. Yell in a commanding voice for the dog to stop, stay, go home. Never crouch. hit the dog on the nose if it gets too close. read about defending yourself from vicious dogs. Walkers and runners have this problem too.

  • I completly agree that people with anger problems shouldn’t own guns I do understand if a biker comes within 3 inches of me or my kid I myself may have an issue and that comes down to people having respect for ones safety and personal space. Simply saying that if you truly feel your life is in danger and you cannot avoid an attack weather you lose your license or not you know weather the situation warrants self defense or not. I bike but i am also a runner so there has been times when i was chased and fortunatley I stopped and the dog was actually not at all on the attack. If you have to protect yourself let the sheriff take your license and bring the matter to court you may be suprised the judge may reinstate it if you had no other choice. It amazing to me all these police officer shooting dogs in residential neighborhoods and they are never dragged through the ringer. everyone has great points and it is a very diverse subject.

  • Angered that a dog owner, especially one of five breeds catagorized and recogized in Amherst county as requiring different rules of ownership responsibility, and these irresponsible owners do not pay heed to rules and laws….subjecting me to a possible dog bite, accident with a car, accident from crashing…..yes, it angers me. However,it has nothing to do with gun ownership. Even if I did not have a CCW permit, I could legally strap a pistol on my waist in plain view and be out in the public forum. Compounded by ignorant, uneducated, overzealous dufus’ wearing a law enforcement badge just raises the frustration level; that said, the animal control officer is a great guy, knowledgeable, and very willing to assist me as an endangered citizen on a public thoroughfare. The dog owner is in violation of three different codes, and these codes are going to be enforced, by me through the courts, with the animal control officer’s assistance.

  • Just joining the conversation rather late … concerning dogs chasing down bikes. One of the things taught to motorcyclists (I used to teach MSF BRC) is that dogs have this uncanny ability to do the trigonometry in their heads to intercept a passing bike (motor or pedal). An easy fix to this is to slow down a little or to change directions and mess up the dog’s OODA loop. Of course that may not be practical on all occasions, so just put this strategy into your kit with some of the others.
    I think it was Mark who described being chased with the Doby behind him, so that’s a different story. Putting the bicycle between you and the dog sounded like good advice.
    I don’t think shooting an animal will put you in very good position, though. As an avid shooter (combat tested), I can’t think of how I can reasonably go through the process of (1) recognizing the threat, (2) getting access to my pistol, however I were to carry it whilst bicycling – maybe in a camelback?, (3) take aim with one hand while controling the bicycle with the other, and (4) place a single-handed, well-aimed kill shot without the risk of follow-on or riccochet damage. I imagine that if I were a defendant in the civil or criminal case that followed (CCW or not), the plaintiff or prosecution would ask how I was able to do all of that but didn’t have time to simply get out of the way or dismount and use the bicycle as a shield. Maybe you should just leave the firearm at home and carry a long-handled wrench instead. Make sure it’s a 15mm so you at least have a reason to carry the wrench: “Well, deputy/officer/trooper, that’s for tightening my pedals should they come loose.”

  • Some may consider this inhumane, but for at least the last 25 years I have carrid an extra water bottle with water and cayenne pepper mixed in. It stops the dogs in their tracks. My regular route crosses paths with many dogs, some of which are not tied at all times. I’m not afraid of getting bit but I don’t want to go down because the dog put its head under my tire. Anyhow, this has always worked for me. The dogs that I have actually sprayed still chase but don’t come within 10 feet of me. They just play now. Remember not to drink the bottle with the pepper in it.

  • Josephus, I like your suggestion. I totally forgot about pepper. We used to hit the dogs in Iraq with pepper spray to keep them away. Either your cocktail or a commercially available sprayer would likely do the trick – and it sounds like you have the test results to prove it. If one prefers the commercial sprayer over the Josephus homemade recipe, a riders can probably fashion a pepper sprayer to his or her cross bar or handle real easily. Thanks for your input.

  • Yesterday I was riding my bike in my small town in NE Texas. I was curious about one particular neighborhood – older *rustic* houses, with chickens, even a horse in one yard, etc. I had just turned up a lane, when a total of FOUR barking dogs came speeding toward me, across an vacant, overgrown yard. In a split second, I just decided to ride out of the area as fast as I could. They caught up w/me immediately and surrounded my bike (but not in front). They were all very close to my legs and rear tire, biting upward and barking. I kept peddling, while kicking at two of the dogs on my left side w/my left leg, all the while yelling ‘NO!’ ‘NO!’ But that’s when one of the dogs on my right side bit my right calf. I just kept peddling, yelling NO! NO!, and fending them off w/a kick. They stayed w/me for about 40-50 yards until I turned onto a main street, then stopped chasing me. The thing not discussed much above is RABIES. I had to go to the emergency room, plus be interviewed by police to make a report. Rabies is FATAL, everyone. If you are bit, you need to immediately find that dog (if you can – I couldn’t even after talking to numerous people) to determine if its had its rabies vaccination. If its a stray/wild dog, there’s a chance of course that it HASN’T. And, that means rabies treatment regimen. The Emergency Room doctor said the cost is alot, like $2,000 +/- . If you can’t determine whether the dog had the rabies vac, which in my case I haven’t been able to determine, I will need to fork over a lot of cash and endure a number of injections over weeks. Better safe, than dead.

  • I live in kansas in a town with a large concentration of white trash. Dogs are a daily aggravation. I use my sonicblast whistle the same whistle used by the NFL to freak the dog out when they come charging. This helps save my voice from having to yell and keeps my blood pressure down. I used to carry an air gun pistol 15 shot repeater in a holster strapped around the headtube and that would stop just about any dog in their tracks. I stopped using it when an owner found out where I lived after I shot their charging dog and took a rock an smashed out all the windows on one side of my house. Basically the way I see it we ride on public roads and shouldn’t have to put up with being harassed by aggressive dogs. Many of these dog owners in the county will tell me to ride another road all so they can let cujo run free and menace anyone or thing that happens to pass its territory. Honestly the air gun is probably the only weapon of choice for aggressive dogs that guarantees they will leave you alone, the problem with using a real gun is that you’re responsible for any stray bullet and that’s too much liability.

  • You guys are approaching this all wrong. The extra gear, weapons, door hangers, etc just slow you down. Here’s what to do: Ride with you buddy. When you see a potentially problem dog, draw your buddy’s attention to it. While he is focused on the dog, postion yourself on the opposite side of your buddy from the dog. Now, you don’t have to be faster than the dog, only as fast as your buddy.

  • The man with the BB pistol is correct.. That WILL save his butt…It’s non lethal and not excessive force when compared to a dog bite.. If he knows WHO broke HIS windows that is a CRIME…Contact an attorney and sue…If he can catch them breaking he can assume they are about to enter..Sounds like he can defend himself and use something more than his bb pistol.. The problem with dogs is they act one way when the owner is present and another when the owner is not.. Some aggressive dogs are sweet when Daddy is near by.. But when daddy is not home, dog bites like crazy.. So be smart.. use bb gun when no one is looking..If you let the fools scare you into being vulnerable they and their dog won.. Stand up to the dogs and when the time comes stand up to the fools..

  • Hello i know im kinda off subject but want know your opinion. Do you think this is legal or right for our minicipal judge to force this ? Our dogs got out because we had a tree in our fence that was interfiering with our power lines excel came and took the tree unbenounced to us leaving a gaping hole in our fence. We live in hereford freakin texas that play by their own rules not in compliance with the rest of the states. Instead of just giving us dog at large tickets wich wouldn’t be a problem they were out. They are trieng to force us to register them as dangerous…now i believe to legally in order to do this in our state, our dogs must have to bite somone. Which they NEVER have. Even onee of our to dog catchers stated “i dont believe they are aggressive outside of their yard, o simply couldn’t catch them. They seemed scared when i got close and ran away” now if they are aggredsive in my opinion wouldn’t they have bit him when he got close especially if they were scared?

  • dani – with all due respect, if your dogs got out, and they threatened someone, or escaped and weren’t under your control, I’m 100% on the side of registration. I’ve been bitten once too often by ‘harmless’ dogs to give any credence to owner statements about their dogs. Generally, my take is that a loose dog – that is, an off-leash dog without an owner hard by – is dangerous, and even with the owner close by, is generally dangerous. IMHO, all dogs should be required to be on leashes when they’re in an area where they aren’t fenced.

    That’s experience talking. I don’t like being bitten or threatened, and my tolerance has basically run out. The last couple of dog harassment episodes have not ended well for the dogs, and I don’t really think I need to apologize; my rights to bodily integrity and freedom from assault far outweigh any fuzzy-headed ideas dog-owners have about their dogs’ rights and needs to run free.

  • The state of Louisiana has a STATE wide leash law in effect.. IF a dog hurts you the owner is automatically at fault…This is a big plus in any dog bite or cyclist dog confrontation legal case.. Talk to YOUR state rep and plead for a state wide leash law if you don’t have one YET.. It’s coming to all states due to more cyclist on the roads and more people aware of the problems.. There are STILL some loose dogs in our state but the BB pistol has trained those to not chase bikes.. Incidentally, just recently I was able to stop a vicious cotton mouth with the BB pistol..I almost hit it with my front tire.. Now that the dogs on my 20 mile route know I have the Co2 pistol I seldom fire it.. I am a dog owner and experienced trainer. MOST dogs mean no harm and I can tell when I need my Co2 pistol.. You can tell if they are biters by the way they charge. If there is more than one and the lead dog means business you can discourage him, and the rest will break the attack as soon as he runs. Someone ask, can fire with one hand while riding with the other and take careful aim and hit his target ?. Yes, an expert shot and x cop like me can do just that.. I can put the BB right on the thick muscular part of the hind leg and NEVER damage the dogs eyes or do permanent damage. In my years, I’ve had to shoot only one dog to turn it.. I did not bring blood because I had shot the Co2 down before leaving home..After that the sound of the Co2 has been enough to make the dog run for the hills..In fact I do not relish hurting anything. BUT,, I will not let a big dog bite my 6 year old grandson. If that means I hit it on the butt with a Co2 bb pistol,, then so be it. Mess with my baby and Fido is in deep doggy poo….Dog owners are the ONES that I fault when dogs get hurt. Dogs do what dogs do because owners don’t do what they should do..Plain, simple truth..Poor doggy gets hurt when it’s master could have prevented it. Don’t blame the cyclist for protecting him or her self. The owner created the situation. They are FULLY at fault..No one else nor the dog is at fault, just the owner who could have changed the situation and did not..

  • Heh Hot Head, (and others) I like your idea! Never thought of it I guess cause never saw one of those bb pistols. Can you tell more about what you might know like how accurate are pistols themselves and how accurate can you get without an extreme amount of practice? Effective practical range? Model recomendation? And most important, will a bb really stop a large motivated attacking dog if hit in chest and what if hit hindquarters instead? You’re so right. On a public road getting injured by dogs is an abomination.

  • I had a paper route when I was a kid — back in the stone age — and I found that a dime store squirt gun full of clorox will make a dog back off in a heart beat. If you hit him in the face with clorox, the next time he sees you coming, he will run and hide under the porch.

  • REPORT ANY TIME A DOG IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM IN THE ROAD even if you were not harmed. 14 months ago a 90 lb. pitbull crashed me and fractured my pelvis in 3 places, including the left hip socket completely in 2, plus a rib. 2 strips of metal, a 7 inch incision, and 10 weeks latter I took my first steps without crutches. Another 3 months and I no longer needed them. Found out it had previously crashed 2 other cyclists causing injuries and bitten another one. Animal Control never charged the owner for anything for all 4 of these events! I am in the process now of convincing local law enforcement that if they had penalized the owner sooner the dog might not have been allowed in the road to put me through what the last 14 months have been like, plus however much longer, if ever, for full recovery. I crashed 3 days before I was to begin a 750 mile tour I was in great shape for.

  • Huh? What has ecstasy got to do with dogs attacking cyclist? Unless your wanting to slip Fido a Mickey! If you are, there are cheaper, and legal substances, that can be more easily obtained. Plus, I’m not sure about the Noble State Of Virginia, but in the Great State Of Texas, it would be cheaper, and less jail time, to walk calmly into the owner’s yard with a club, and beat the poor mongrel to death. Is it being suggested that some owners are giving their dog ecstasy to make them vicious? If so, I would strongly urge that local law enforcement be notified if this is suspected. Also, I would not suggest that any baits be dropped for the purpose of poisoning, or even making a dog sick. One of my former neighbors got stuck with a $500 vet bill, plus fines & court cost, because he baited his neighbor’s dog — who was swiping creep feed left for cattle. The chemical he used was intended not to kill, but only to make the dog sick, so that it would avoid the cattle feed. As far as other suggestions as to defense against dog attacks: I recently came into possession of a nonfunctional stun-gun, I repaired it, and am now carrying it when I ride. In Texas there are no regulations preventing the possession of stun-guns in public places, and the usage of them is basically covered by the same statues covering the usage all weapons. Fortunately I have not had to use it — yet — but the sound it makes is quite startling. My hope is that if I suffer an attack, the popping of its discharge will frighten a dog away. If not then Ol’ Bullet can ride the lightening.

  • mgdb is a moron. if a dog attacks a cyclist it is the dog who is at fault not the cyclist you mgdb you dope. Using your logic the rapist is not the guilty party but the woman who was raped because she inspired the rapist to rape her. mgdb please follow the yellow brick road and ask the wizard for some brains.

  • mgbg is a moron. if a dog attacks a cyclist it is the dog who is at fault not the cyclist you mg bg you dope. Using your logic the rapist is not the guilty party but the woman who was raped because she inspired the rapist to rape her. mgdb please follow the yellow brick road and ask the wizard for some brains.

  • It appears to me that many responders here do not ride on a regular basis because their statements seem imo to be out of touch with reality.

    First, getting off the bike and walking is no solution because we all have to ride the same routes several times a week and you can’t keep getting off your bike. First, it is too damaging to your psyche and second it just encourages the dog who will bite someone else. And obviously, Government is no solution.

    Have strong doubts bb pistols will be accurate enough to be effective for the normal person without the ability or inclination to do tons of practice especially considering you are firing from moving bike. And doubtful they have penetration to stop a really aggressive and or large critter.
    Getting bitten or forced to fall is not acceptable. Many of us live in the real world where survival is a margin call. Rabies shots are very expensive as are falling injuries and could also cause one to lose work, leading even to homelessness. Even if not, the dog will still be there the next day to attack you again.

    Ammonia and fox spray are possibilities but can only be considered backups. Ammonia requires a large spray bottle carried in bottle carrier so you may not have it plus accurate aim is problematic. Fox spray maybe but wind an issue.

    Guns involve too much risk to people nearby from missed shots unless very rural and there may be legal issues here.

    Bullies can never be allowed. An essential law of life. The dog must be killed and it is your responsibility. Best solution is strap a sharp machete to front fork. Wait until dog is right at your pedal and swing hard with intent. Works every time. Do not swing when dog slightly out of range or use it to threaten. Dogs learn quick to avoid it but will still harass you forever. Less damaging options like a club don’t work. I’ve clubbed a dog hard before and it just learned to avoid it, trying to just get me from extreme rear where I can’t hit it or just attacking in the dark when hard to see.

    An added plus is that no one can claim that you were not in danger and acting in self defense, due to the short range of your weapon. Often too, there will be a definite improvement in other dog owner’s attitude in the neighborhood.

    Carry chemicals as a backup but I always reach for the surest thing first, and this is sure. Never pull a firearm unless confronted by several dogs in which case use only a revolver so can fire some kind of snake shot first to minimize danger to people. Real rounds only when facing death and even then must be practiced, stationary, and in a ruralish area. Otherwise be noble and die.

  • I’m just wondering is it against the law to walk with my baseball bat for protection against dog’s and use it if been approached by crazy dog.

  • Deputies should protect people not threaten to take things away from them when they practice self defense.It’s a real shame the law doesn’t allow you to shoot that deputy.

  • I would say both the dog and owner are at fault. The dog did the act, but the owner is fully responsible for the dogs actions. If you don’t have a fenced back yard to put your dog in or leave it inside except to poop please just don’t own a dog. There is too much liability in owning a dog otherwise.

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