Colo. Gov. Puts Bite in Legislation Increasing Liability of Dog Owners Whose Animals Cause Injury

April 27, 2004

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has signed legislation increasing the liability of a dog owner if their animal causes serious bodily injury or death, regardless of whether or not the owner was aware of the dog’s propensity to be dangerous.

“Owning a dog comes with serious responsibilities,” Owens said. “The legislation makes it clear than a dog owner can be held liable for their dog’s actions, even if it is the first time the animal is known to have been involved in an attack.”

Under HB-1279, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Stafford (R-Aurora) and Sen. Mark Hillman (R-Burlington), a dog owner is liable the first time their pet, regardless of breed, bites a human. Previously, the law prohibited recovering damages from a dog owner until the second time the animal attacked a person.

The bill specifies that a victim can initiate civil action to recover economic damages against the owner of the dog involved in an attack. Further, if it is proved that the dog owner had knowledge of the dog’s viciousness, a court may order that the dog be euthanized.

The bill also prohibits local jurisdictions from banning specific breeds of dogs. The legislation is effective immediately, upon the Governor’s signature last week.

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