I had a student at my last class ask if she could use deadly force to protect herself against an animal attack?
The law of self-defense and the defense of others applies when you are faced with an animal attack. Virginia is a Stand Your Ground state. This means that if you did not start the fight or provoke the incident in any way, then you can stand your ground and defend yourself against your attacker without having to retreat. If you are without fault in provoking or bringing on the attack and you reasonably fear that you are in imminent danger of being killed or in imminent danger of great bodily harm and you use no more force than is reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the perceived harm or the attack under the circumstances as they appear to you, then your use of deadly force and self-defense is legally justified. Consider the size of the animal also. Do you really need to shoot an aggressive Chihuahua or Dachshund or is the attacking dog a larger Pit Bull or other larger breed? Could using some OC or similar spray stop the attack?
If you are involved in an event that requires you to defend yourself against an animal attack, and you discharged your firearm, the odds are very high that it will be investigated by the authorities. If it is determined that it’s not self-defense or that you did not have a right to protect yourself, then you very well may be charged with something like cruelty to animals or the reckless handling of a firearm.
As always, with the use of any deadly force, you must stop firing the SECOND that the attack is stopped. I'd advise you to then call 9-1-1 and report what happened and also notify your legal/financial plan administrator.