Dog Bite Laws in Colorado
Statute CRS 13-21-124, Civil Actions Against Dog Owners, outlines legal action regarding dog bites that occur in the state of Colorado.
The statute defines the parameters under which a dog owner is liable for a pet’s actions as well as specific damages that may be filed in a civil suit.
When Is an Owner Liable for a Dog Bite?
An owner is liable for a dog bite so long as the injured person was lawfully on public or private property.
This seems simple enough, but it does warrant a few legal definitions.
Legal Definition of Dog
A dog is defined under the above statute as any domesticated animal related to the wolf, fox, coyote, or jackal.
Legal Definition of Dog Owner
A dog owner is defined as a person, firm, corporation, or organization owning, possessing, harboring, keeping, having financial or property interest in, or having control or custody of a dog.
A Person Is Lawfully on Public/Private Property When:
- They are in the performance of a duty imposed by local, state, or federal law
- They are on private property where an invitation was implied or expressly given by the property owner.
So long as the above criteria is met, a person may seek damages against a person whose dog bit them while on their property or public property.
When is a Dog Owner Not Liable?
A dog owner may not be held liable for causing bodily harm to another in the following situations:
- The alleged victim was unlawfully on public or private property
- The injured person was on the property of the dog owner and the property is marked with at least one warning sign to the effect of No Trespassing or Beware of Dog.
- The dog was acting with military personnel or a police officer in the performance of their respective duties.
- The injured person knowingly provoked the dog.
- The bite occurred while performing one’s respective duties as a:
- Veterinary health care worker
- Dog groomer
- Humane agency staff
- Professional handler
- Professional trainer
- Dog show judge
- Any other person who works professionally with dogs
- The dog was hunting, herding, working on a farm or ranch, or controlling predators on its owner’s property.
What Damages Can You Claim if You Are Bitten By A Dog?
If it is determined that you were bitten by a dog while lawfully on public or private property, you can claim the following in damages:
- Medical bills, both current and future
- Loss of income
- Future loss of income
- Loss of earning power
- Mental health services costs
The statute excludes what are called non-economic damages, which means you cannot file suit for things like emotional damage or pain and suffering. These types of damages do apply in certain negligence and personal injury claims. You will want to discuss routes for seeking non-economic damages with your attorney.
Does Colorado Euthanize Aggressive Dogs?
Yes, Colorado law permits the euthanasia, or humane killing, of dogs in the case of dog bites. However, it must be proven in court that a) the dog has a history of aggressive behavior and b) that the owner was aware of said behavior.
If these conditions are met, the court can file an order that the dog is to be put down by a licensed veterinarian or a licensed shelter at the owner’s expense.
Should I Hire a Dog Bite Attorney?
Yes, if you have been injured by a dog bite, we recommend you seek experienced legal counsel. Dog bite cases can be especially emotional for all parties. Friendships may be involved, for example, or you may be worried about the welfare of the animal itself.
The fact of the matter is that dog owners need to be held responsible for the actions of their pets. Colorado Law protects us from aggressive dogs that hurt us when we have a right to be on the property. If you or a loved one has been bitten by someone else’s dog, please contact our office or go online to schedule a free evaluation. We are here to help.