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Chicken-killing canines could get leniency

RICHMOND—For most of Virginia’s agrarian history, the law prescribed a clear punishment on a chicken-killing dog: death.

But as the “urban chicken” movement has brought backyard fowls into close quarters with valued pets, that death penalty could raise more conflicts than it solves.

Imagine your neighbor shooting your dog because he thought your dog killed his chicken. That might be par for the course in rural areas, where issues of livestock versus dogs are more common, but could be startling to urban dog owners.

In her Richmond Fan district neighborhood, “that chicken owner or whoever killed the dog might get shot,” said Del. Jennifer McClellan.

McClellan has proposed a bill to alleviate at least part of the death sentence on chicken-killing dogs. If it passes, animal control officers who catch a dog in the act of preying on a hen will have the choice—they could kill it, or they could use a nonlethal method to deal with the dog.

Her bill doesn’t stop the chicken owner from killing the dog—that’s still legal—but she said it’s a step, after it passed out of a House subcommittee Monday afternoon.

“As more localities are passing chicken ordinances, this is something they’ll have to deal with,” McClellan said after the subcommittee meeting. “At least we’ve raised the issue.”

The city of Fredericksburg allows chickens, and Spotsylvania County allows them in some areas.

Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245,