Developments in Animal Law: An Evolving Area in Virginia Law

Ryan Murphy *

On December 15, 2013, my wife and I welcomed a puppy into our family. We love dogs, grew up with them, but we had never raised one (or any living creature for that matter). As I drove to our Richmond Fan apartment from the foster home in Goochland, I felt helpless while he scratched at the carrier, frantic and screeching. During his first weeks with us, he smelled, relieved himself frequently and anywhere, and exhibited signs of abdominal distress that sent us on a trip to the companion animal equivalent of an emergency room.

Two years later he chases cats, retrieves sticks, splashes in mud, and chews and consumes things too obscene to mention. He learns tricks and the names of his toys.[1] He ignores commands. He has also begun grunting (no other word could describe the peculiar emanation) at 6:00 PM until I let him outside.[2] And I think he loves us.[3]

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*   J.D., 2014, University of Richmond School of Law; B.A., 2007, University of Virginia. I am grateful to Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch for discussing the newly created Animal Law Unit and her comments on Part I of this article. Thank you also to Sarah Murphy, who provided comments and suggestions, and the University of Richmond Law Review staff. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of his employer.

        [1].    See generally Monique A.R. Udell & C.D.L. Wynne, A Review of Domestic Dogs’ (Canis Familiaris) Human-Like Behaviors: Or Why Behavior Analysts Should Stop Worrying and Love Their Dogs, 89 J. Experimental Analysis of Behav. 247, 249, 253 (2008) (citing examples of dogs building “vocabularies”).

        [2].    See id. at 251–52 (citing a study indicating that dogs “cue” humans).

        [3].    See Gregory S. Berns, Andrew M. Brooks & Mark Spivak, Scent of the Familiar: An fMRI Study of Canine Brain Responses to Familiar and Unfamiliar Human and Dog Odors, 110 Behav. Processes 37, 44 (2015); Luke E. Stoeckel, Lori S. Palley, Randy L. Gollub, Steven M. Niemi & Anne Eden Evins, Patterns of Brain Activation when Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study, 9 PLOS ONE 1, 6, 9 (2014); cf. Marc Bekoff, Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures, 50 BioScience 861, 861, 864, 868 (2000) (positing that animals feel a variety of emotions, while recognizing arguments that humans indulge in a certain amount of projection).