Something most people don’t think about are dog laws in their state. Although it may seem unimportant at the moment, when an issue arises with your dog and the law, these will be crucial to know. With August 26th being International Dog Day, we thought we’d shared with you some of Colorado’s most important dog laws to know.
Injury, Civil Action, and Liability
While most people don’t associate buying a dog with worrying about the law, knowing what can happen if your dog hurts someone or if you yourself are hurt buy a dog is important to know. Under CRS 13-21- 1, Colorado allows a person (or a representative of that person) who is injured from being bitten by a dog or is killed to bring a civil action against the owner in order to recover “economic damages.” However, there are some crucial clarifications that need to be made here:
- The victim must be on private or public property
- It doesn’t matter how vicious or dangerous the dog seemed, or how much knowledge the owner had of that dog’s aggressive behavior
- If the owner did have knowledge of the dog’s viciousness and dangerousness, the victim or a representative of the victim can propose an order to have the dog euthanized
It’s also important to note in which cases the owner is not liable for the injury or death. These are just some of the most prominent, but be sure to check it out in more detail here. The owner is not liable if:
- The victim was unlawfully on private or public property
- The victim was on the owner’s private property, which was clearly marked with a “beware of dog” or “no trespassing” sign
- The victim was knowingly provoking the dog
- The victim was working with the dog as a part of the duties in their job
Wildlife, Harassment by Dogs, and Protecting Property
Since may parts of Colorado have farms and livestock, Colorado has issued dog laws surrounding wildlife, harassment by dogs, and protecting property. In Title 33, Article 3, Part 1, it states that if the state determines that wildlife (including wild dogs) are damaging a person’s property, a permit can be issued to kill a specific number of that species. Here are some important things to note:
- Generally, if a person kills an animal, it must be reported within 48 hours. A mountain lion or bear, however, must be reported within five days.
- It is okay to “trap, kill, or otherwise dispose of bears, mountain lions, or dogs” without a permit if they are causing imminent damage or injury to people, property, vehicles, livestock.
- In the specific case of dogs, it is okay to trap or kill without a permit if they are “inflicting death or injury to big game and to small game, birds, and mammals.”
- If you don’t stop your own dog from doing these things, you will be held liable for the death of every animal killed.
Criminal Consequences for Dangerous Dogs
18-9-204.5 governs state level dangerous dog convictions in Colorado. Although euthanasia as a possibility seems harsh, most cities and counties also have similar dangerous animal crimes. It’s important to note that they’re all slightly different, but the “cost of care” or “impound hearings” associated with dangerous dog convictions are possible. You need to hire an attorney for those types of case as soon as possible, or else you risk losing your dog (hint: there is a 10 day deadline to request a hearing!). Aside from having a dangerous dog, other petty offenses include barking dogs and dogs at large.
While civil liability is expected for an owner of a dog who bites a person, under the “Unlawful Ownership of a Dangerous Dog.” C.R.S. §18-9-204.5, criminal liability for the owner is a possibility as well. Now, you may be thinking, what does a “dangerous dog?” Here are some things that define a dog as dangerous: the dog…
- causes bodily injury or death to a domestic animal or person
- gives reason to believe it will cause bodily injury or death to a domestic animal or person
- has been trained for dog fighting and takes part in dog fighting
For the most part, the more serious the offense, the more serious the criminal punishment. So, as far as punishments go, what are the consequences of having a dangerous dog? The first is a conviction, which can vary based on the severity of the victim’s injury. They can be either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on if a victim is a person or animal, and if they are injured versus killed. The most important thing to know is that if the case involves the death of a person, all convictions are felonies.
In some cases, the dog may also be euthanized. This doesn’t happen with every offense, mostly with more serious injuries or cases of death of people and cases of death with other animals. However, dogs cannot be euthanized for property damage cases, no matter how severe.
There is also a long list of both practical and financial consequences for owning a dangerous dog. Practical consequences include using a muzzle and leash on the dog at all times, having a warning sign on the owner’s property regarding the dangerous dog, and microchipping the dog as a way to tell that the dog is dangerous. Financial consequences include paying fines for each conviction and paying for the victim’s medical expenses (both kinds of consequences are outlined in C.R.S. §18-9-204.5(e.5) and C.R.S. §18-9-204.5(3)(e)(III)(B).
Handling an Animal Case on Your Own
Each animal case is different: sometimes you can handle it on your own, and sometimes, if the emotional and financial burden becomes too much, hiring an attorney can be the most practical decision. Here at the Colorado Lawyer Team, we have legal DIY packages for animal cases that will help you navigate your case with less legal help than full-blown representation. Check out our legal DIY page to see if handling your animal case on your own is a good fit for you! You can find it here. As one of the state’s few experts on animal crime, our attorney, Justie Nicol, is better prepared than most to handle these cases and is happy to treat your pet like the family member they are!
Dog Laws for Good
To end things on a happier note, any dogs or cats adopted from animal shelters in Colorado are the official state pets of Colorado. It’s true! It was made official in 2013 by Governor John Hickenlooper, under Title 24, Article 80, Part 9.
Overall, it is important to understand the dog laws in your state, even if you yourself don’t own a dog. Although they may be boring to read, or annoying to know if you disagree with them, it’s crucial to understand that these laws are in place for good reason and help protect wildlife and the public.
Interested in learning more about dogs in the United States? Check out our previous blog post “Pandemic Pets: Are Dogs Getting Returned?” to learn about adopted pets and how they are fairing during the pandemic here.
Need Legal Help?
If you are in need of criminal defense or family law help (and yeah, we do some animal law things outside of criminal defense and family law, too) consider reaching out to Colorado Lawyer Team for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.
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