Colorado Dog Law

Liability Statute

Under this statute, a person or personal representative of a person who suffers "serious bodily injury" or death from being bitten by a dog is entitled to bring a civil action to recover economic damages against the dog owner, regardless of the dog's viciousness or the owner's knowledge or lack of knowledge of the dog's viciousness, so long as the victim (1) was lawfully on public or private property at the time of the injury; and (2) did not knowingly provoke the dog. This strict liability statute applies in cases where the injury involves a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a bodily function or organ, or a break or fracture.

In cases not involving a "serious bodily injury," the victim must show that the dog owner was negligent.

The statute, however, outlines the following six circumstances where a dog owner will not be liable for a dog-bite injury:

  • In cases where the injury occurred while the victim was a trespasser on public or private property;
  • In cases where the injury occurred while the victim was on the dog owner's property and the property was clearly and conspicuously marked with one or more posted signs stating, "No trespassing," or "Beware of Dog;"
  • In cases where the dog was being used by a peace officer or military personnel for official duties;
  • In cases where the victim knowingly provoked the dog;
  • In cases where the victim was a veterinary health-care worker, dog groomer, humane agency staff person, professional dog handler, trainer, or dog show judge acting in the performance of his or her respective duties; and
  • In cases where the dog is working as a hunting, herding, farm, ranch, or predatory control dog while on the property or under the control of the dog's owner.

Dangerous Dog Statute

The Meaning of a "Dangerous Dog"

Under Colorado law, a "dangerous dog" is a dog that:

  • has inflicted "bodily injury" or "serious bodily injury" upon or has caused the death of a person or a domestic animal;
  • has shown tendencies that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the dog might inflict injury or cause the death of any person or domestic animal; or
  • has engaged in or been trained for animal fighting.

The Meaning of "Bodily Injury" and "Serious Bodily Injury"

  • Under Colorado's Dangerous Dog Statute, "bodily injury" means any physical injury that results in severe bruising, muscle tears, or skin lacerations that requires professional medical treatment, or any physical injury that requires corrective or cosmetic surgery.
  • Under Colorado law, "serious bodily injury" means an injury that involves a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a bodily function or organ, or a break, fracture or second- or third-degree burn.

Dangerous Dog Owner's Legal Responsibilities

The owner of a dangerous dog must confine the dog in an escape-proof building or enclosure. When a dangerous dog is outside of its enclosure, the law requires the owner to control the dog by using a leash. In cases where the owner has been convicted of violating the dangerous dog law on more than one occasion, the dog must be muzzled when it is outside of its building or enclosure.

The dog owner must report any change in the dangerous dog's situation, such as an address change, the dog's escape, or its death, to the Bureau of Animal Protection.

At the owner's expense, the dangerous dog must be permanently identified through the implantation of a microchip by a licensed veterinarian or a licensed shelter. The law requires the facility that implants the microchip to report the microchipping information to the Bureau of

Animal Protection within ten days of the implantation. In addition, the owner of a dangerous dog must pay a $50 microchip licensing fee to the Bureau of Animal Protection.

Dangerous Dog Owner's Liability

If a dangerous dog injures or kills a person or a domestic animal, or if it destroys property, the dog's owner will face a variety of criminal punishment. The punishment depends on the severity of the injury or damage caused by the dog, as well as the number of times the owner has violated the Dangerous Dog Statute. The criminal punishment range is vast. On the high end, the owner faces a two-year prison term, as well as a fine that can be as high as $100,000.

When a dangerous dog causes personal injury, the owner will also be required to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution generally covers the victim's out-of-pocket expenses, as well as anticipated future expenses. Under the Dangerous Dog Statute, restitution does not include pain and suffering or loss of future earnings. In order to recoup those damages, the victim can file a civil suit.

In cases where a dangerous dog injures a domestic animal, the owner will be required to pay medical expenses. In cases where the dangerous dog kills a domestic animal, the owner will be required to pay restitution in an amount equal or greater to the fair market value or replacement cost of the animal.

Finally, if a dangerous dog destroys property, the owner will be required to make restitution in an amount equal to or greater than the fair market value or replacement cost of the property, plus any costs the victim incurs in replacing the property.

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