Land access restrictions
needed for hunters, dogs
The General Assembly must close the loophole in the law that allows hunters and their dogs to legally trespass on private property.
There is no recourse for Virginia landowners to restrict hunters and their dogs from accessing private property.
Virginia has an antiquated law known as the "Right to Retrieve" statute. Code of Virginia section 18.2-136 states "...hunters of all other game, when the chase begins on other lands, may go upon prohibited lands to retrieve their dogs."
This law allows hunters to go onto any private property without permission at any time of day or night. The law doesn't stipulate the length of stay. Essentially, this law turns our private property into public property.
What's more, under Code of Virginia 3.2-6538, hunting dogs are permitted to "run at large" and not required to be under the owner's immediate control.
What does this mean for the Virginia landowner? Hunting dogs are permitted on your property and there's nothing you can do about it. By law, you have no recourse for stopping a solo hunting dog or a pack of dogs on your property. Calling law enforcement is futile since the law specifically allows hunting dogs to run free.
Personally, I've had hunters antagonize my spouse; my dog has been bitten by hunting dogs; my livestock has been harassed; and, countless times, private time has been interrupted by hunters and their dogs. My story isn’t unique. This is a problem in many rural and suburban areas in Virginia. Property owners are frustrated.
The problem lies specifically with deer hunters and their dogs. Upland game-, bear-, raccoon- and waterfowl-hunting dog owners seem to police themselves better than deer-hunting dog owners.
While no one can dispute the conservation contributions all hunters have made to the state's wildlife management, it's time the small percentage of inconsiderate hunters respect the property rights of others.