Kristina Bergsten

Guard Dogs and Colorado’s Unlawful Ownership of a Dangerous Dog Statute

Colorado’s Dangerous Dog statute is an unforgiving statute for a dog. The Animal Law Firm’s animal attorneys have seen all types of very sweet, loving dogs on the wrong side of the Unlawful Ownership of a Dangerous Dog statute because it was poorly written and places strict liability on the dog (and the owner).

Strict liability crimes are crimes where “if it happens, you are guilty.” There is very little room for argument that you (and your dog) are not guilty — unless you have an experienced animal lawyer on your side. The statute punishes both human and dog – the human gets a misdemeanor on his/her record, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or one year in jail. It’s serious business! The dog get punished either through forfeiture (the government takes your dog forever), euthanasia, or muzzles, 6-sided enclosures, signs on your house, registering the dog’s microchip with the government, and more. It is not merely a matter of paying a fine and some vet bills; this is a very poorly written statute with very serious consequences.

In certain jurisdictions, you can apply for a “guard dog license.” This means, if your dog has been trained as a guard dog, you can register your dog with your county (typically) for a license saying your dog is a guard dog. There are certain requirements for this, such as posting signs, having a secure fence, leaving your name and contact information with the jurisdiction you register your dog in, among other requirements. Some people think this is a good idea because they think their dog will be protected if anything happens. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, if your dog bites someone on your property, your “guard dog license” will be used against you. It will not protect you. The first thing the prosecution will point to is that you knew your dog had dangerous propensities because you trained him to; you even went so far as to alert the government that your dog had dangerous propensities and registered him as a guard dog. So while it may seem like you are doing the right thing by registering your guard dog as a guard dog, it will do nothing to protect you or your dog and, in fact, might end up hurting you both if charges are ever filed.

You might be thinking, why would they offer a license for guard dogs if having a guard dog isn’t allowed in the state under the dangerous dog laws? The answer is because legislators are not practicing attorneys or judges, they are just people who react to situations and don’t always educate themselves to the fullest extent and therefore cannot see the far reaching consequences of the laws they write. The best way to change things is to lobby (anyone can lobby, you don’t have to be paid or give lots of money) your state legislator to change the law.

If you own a guard dog, or a pet dog, and you are facing criminal charges for unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog (or vicious dog, aggressive animal, or any other type of language), call our experienced animal lawyers today at The Animal Law Firm at 303-623-4000; we would be happy to help you!

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