Dog Bite Cases – Unlawful Possession of a Dangerous Dog
CRS. 18-9-204.5

Dog bite cases, despite seeming rather simple, can be quite complex in Colorado. The specific statute, or law, that you are often charged with in Colorado when your animal has bitten or caused injury to another animal or person is called “unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog”.

And generally, we all agree with the premise of the statute – we do not want dogs causing injuries to people or other animals in our community.

With that said, often times, when a dog fight or a dog bite occurs, it is not because that dog is a “dangerous” dog. Rather, that fight, bite, or conflict occurred because of a strange or unique circumstance. Some of the circumstances we have seen include: another dog biting or attacking your dog first, a child or other person poking or prodding the dog in an uncomfortable manner, or even the dog being particularly vulnerable at that time due to having had a recent surgery or other medical issue.

Either way, it is important to take these cases seriously, not only due to the injury that either a dog or person suffered, but also because of potential criminal consequences this can have for you as the dog owner. Even more alarmingly, such cases involve the possibility that your dog may be euthanized depending on the outcome of your situation.

It’s imperative to recognize and understand that the definition of “dangerous dog” includes a dog who “inflicts injury or causes death of a person or other domestic animal” but also a dog that “demonstrates tendencies that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the dog may inflict injury or cause death of a person or domestic animal.”

The specific subsection of the statute you are charged with depends on what exactly resulted from the dog bite or fight.

That’s to say, if there was bodily injury to person, then that is charged as a class 3 misdemeanor (M3). A second or subsequent offense with this outcome would be a class 2 misdemeanor (M2).

If the result was serious bodily injury (SBI) to a person that that is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor (M1). A second or subsequent offense that results in SBI to a person is charged as a class 6 felony (F6).

If the result of the bite or attack is that a person’s life is lost, then that is charged as a class 5 felony (F5).

If it was not a person who was bitten, injured, or killed but rather another domestic animal then that is charged as a class 3 misdemeanor (M3). A second or subsequent offense like this would be a class 2 misdemeanor (M2).

The specific charge is important because it tells you the maximum jail and/or fine that can be imposed in your case.

With that said, we know that these cases will almost always discuss restitution. Restitution is the process of compensating someone for their injury or loss. Restitution is required in these cases even if you resolve your case with a deferred judgment.

The dog bite statute states that restitution is equal to the greater of the fair market value or the replacement cost of the domestic animal plus any reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred plus any actual costs incurred in replacing the injured or destroyed animal.

Restitution may also include the value of property that is damaged during the bite or fight.

What makes these cases unique isn’t just that they require restitution but the other requirements that may also be ordered.

In these cases, if the dog is not euthanized, there may be several conditions that must be met including, among other things: keeping the dog in an escape-proof area; keeping the dog on a leash; getting a microchip inserted; posting signage on the property about the dogs; or requiring that the dog wear a muzzle.

These cases are complex and can have a wide range of outcomes that can affect your criminal history, your family, and your finances. It is important to hire an attorney who is familiar with steps you can take to place you and your pets in the best possible position for the case and the affirmative defenses that can be used in these types of cases. Contact one of our knowledge Criminal Defense Attorneys to discuss your case.