Kristina Bergsten

Important Steps to Take If Your Dog Is Responsible for a Dog Attack

Your dog is likely one of your best friends, and you love your pet dearly. But what do you do when your dog hurts someone in a Colorado dog attack? It is a thought that most dog owners do not want to consider, but it’s one that you should prepare for to protect yourself and your pet if one of these accidents ever arises. If you have a dog that is allegedly the cause of an attack, there are essential steps to take to protect you and your pet in the state of Colorado.

What Classifies As a Dog Attack?

In Colorado, dog attacks can be anything from your dog running up and barking at someone on the other side of a fence, to making physical contact with the flesh of another dog or person, resulting in mere scratches, up to death. When it comes to Colorado dog laws, they are usually very strict and unforgiving for normal animal behavior.

For example, if your dog bites someone and breaks their skin, even if it’s just a small scratch, you could be held civilly or criminally responsible for the attack. However, being able to prove that your dog was provoked, which is often the case in these types of situations, could help protect you from more significant legal ramifications.

Why Would My Dog Attack Someone Else?

Dog attacks can be a bit more complicated than they seem. While it may appear that your dog was viciously trying to attack someone else, the problem could be with its training. For example, some dogs are more territorial than others, and they don’t like it when people come onto their property in a threatening way. This could cause your dog to act defensively toward someone who did not know they were invading any territory.

In other cases, it could be a simple misunderstanding between your dog and the victim. For example, if you’ve ever taken your pet to the dog park, you know just how crowded it can be. In most cases, dogs are simply trying to establish dominance and can be easily calmed down with a stern “no” from their owners – or a handy bottle of water thrown onto the dogs in the scuffle.

Common Signs of an Uncomfortable Dog

It’s important to know the signs of a dog who is being pushed past his or her limits of comfortability so that you can prevent incidents before they happen. You should always pay attention to your dog’s behavior, especially when in new situations or surroundings. Some signs of an uncomfortable dog include:

  • Hair raised on the back of the neck or in between the shoulders (known as “raised hackles”);
  • Low growling at another pet or person;
  • Raised lips/showing teeth;
  • Tail stiff or between the legs;
  • A stiff and tense body pose;
  • Muzzle punching (using the muzzle to “punch” another person or animal).

These are just a few of the signs that your pet may be uncomfortable with the situation or animal/person and could attack, soon and it is best to remove your dog from the stressor.


Some dogs may be quick to display these behaviors and/or do them frequently, regardless of the situation or their exposure to it. In these situations, take your dog to a behavioral veterinarian to diagnose and treat any underlying health issues that may be causing your dog to be quick to react to relatively benign situations. Sometimes, there is an invisible disease (like arthritis, a cracked tooth, or even cancer) that is causing your dog pain and therefore making him/her easily irritated.

How to Prevent Dog Attacks

If you want to prevent your dog from attacking anyone else, you need to focus on training and being aware of your dog’s levels of comfort with a given situation or person/animal. It’s not enough to train your pet for fundamental commands like “sit” and “stay.” Instead, you need to go the extra mile and either hire a professional trainer, or engage in regular, repeated training commands to make sure your dog is “recallable.”

Further, making sure your dog is getting enough exercise for its breed type is also helpful to prevent an energetic, excitable dog from rough-housing too much.

Even with the best training, however, all dogs can get into a fight and “attack” other animals or people because they are dogs. Dogs only have their teeth and their claws to communicate with once the growling, raised hackles, and other warning signs are not enough to warn off a potential stressor. Colorado law does not care about this and makes it a strict liability criminal offense for your dog to resort to its only recourse if a stressor will not stope. While the state used to ban some breeds as being more dangerous than others, these restrictions have since been relaxed. As they say, sometimes the best offense is a good defense and maintaining good leash control and being in tune with your pet’s level of comfort around other people and dogs is the best way to prevent an attack or fight.

My Dog Just Attacked Someone. Now What?

Unfortunately, even the most well-trained dog may act aggressively toward other people at some point. If this happens to you, it’s important to remain calm and not make the situation worse. Most victims of dog attacks can recover from their injuries with proper after-care.

Don’t Panic

First of all, don’t panic. You must stay calm and try to assess the situation. It’s possible that your dog didn’t mean anything by it, so take a moment to evaluate what happened before you jump to conclusions. For example, if your dog was playing with another person or animal, it may have gotten too rough and accidentally hurt them. It’s natural for dogs to be excited, especially when they are around other people or animals they like playing with. However, they can get carried away pretty easily.

Assess the Situation

When a dog attack happens, the first thing to do is assess the situation and make sure that everyone in the area can get medical attention if necessary. Take pictures of the injuries and dogs if you can, but try not to be obvious about it, because that can often incense the other person. Once the other person is angry, they will likely call animal control. If animal control shows up DO NOT GIVE ANY STATEMENT! You have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent; use it! If it’s clear that no one needs medical attention, you should ask if the other person needs anything from you. If he/she does not ask for your information, leave immediately. Sometimes people will ask for your information and then report it to authorities. If the other person has your information and goes to a vet, the veterinarian will report you to authorities because they are mandatory reporters for dog bites. If you can, try to work it out with the person at the time and explain that your insurance company (if you have one) will take care of any medical expenses and hopefully you will avoid criminal charges, or worse: impoundment of your dog.

Contact Your Vet

After the incident, go to your vet and have them conduct an examination of the wounds sustained by your dog. If criminal charges do follow, you will have a record of your pet’s injuries to use in your defense.


Often, animal control believes whoever calls first to report the attack because it is almost impossible to determine which dog “started” the fight. So, depending on your assessment of the situation and how angry/reasonable the other person is, you can call animal control first to report the attack by the other person.


If the attack was reported by the other person against your dog, your dog may need to be quarantined for ten days. Colorado requires owners of dogs who have attacked people to quarantine their pets for ten days after an incident to look for signs of rabies. This must be done even if your dog is up to date on his/her rabies vaccination. Most of the time this quarantine is done at your home; some authorities (if they’re particularly awful) will seize your dog and make him/her quarantine at the local shelter. Usually this is just a pretense to get you to release your dog to them so they can quickly and easily turn the quarantine in a months-long impound where you have to pay monthly fees for the care and maintenance of your dog pending resolution of your criminal case. In my opinion, this is part of the ongoing dishonesty and underhandedness of law enforcement agencies to avoid having to get a warrant to seize your dog, but unfortunately, there is not much that can be done once you “voluntarily” give your dog over to animal control.

Contact an Animal Law Attorney

As a responsible dog owner, you should also consider contacting an attorney who specializes in animal law to handle the case of a dog attack. It may not be something you want to consider, but it’s an essential step in protecting yourself and your pet from any further consequences of the attack.

The sooner you contact a Colorado animal attorney the better off you’ll be in terms of protecting yourself from liability and assuring that your dog is okay.

Do Dog Bites Have to Be Reported in Colorado?

Yes, dog bites must be reported, as indicated by the dog bite statute of Colorado. Veterinarians, shelters, and hospitals are mandatory reporters for dog bites in Colorado. So if someone is willing to work with you and says he/she will not press charges as long as you pay the bills – if that person unwittingly gives your information to any of these entities, you will be reported and face criminal charges for the bite.

Dog bites that must be reported include:

  • Any bite or scratch by a dog, regardless of severity.
  • Any injury resulting from a fight between two or more dogs.
  • Any injury inflicted by an unconfined dog upon a person, another animal, or property.
  • Any injury to a guide dog, signal dog, service dog, police K9 dog, or search and rescue dog.
  • Any injury to any person while lawfully engaged in hunting, ranching, farming, or other agricultural pursuits on private or public land.

Who Is at Fault in a Dog Attack?

The owner of the dog can be civilly (i.e., sued in court for money) liable for damages (i.e., money) AND criminally liable (i.e., you face misdemeanor charges on your record with a maximum possible penalty of up to one year in jail!).

What Damages Could Be Covered to the Dog Bite Victim?

The (human) victim of a dog attack may have grounds for filing a negligence lawsuit against the owner for damages, including pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages. The number of damages can vary depending on the severity of injuries. They include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages (past and future)
  • Permanent disability or loss of use of limbs/joints
  • Loss of companionship/society
  • Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Property damage (cost to repair/replace clothes, shoes, or other items that were damaged during dog attack).

If the only being hurt in a dog fight is another animal, usually the financial recovery is limited to the value of the dog and any veterinary expenses. Typically, if only a dog is injured, the owner of the other dog will seek revenge (yes, revenge, not justice) through the criminal justice system because it is a free process for them to get their money back. Hiring a civil lawyer would mean paying a contingency fee and most of the time civil dog bite attorneys will not take on a case where just the dog alone was injured because the monetary recovery is too low.

Are There Criminal Charges for Dog Bite?

Yes, a dog owner will likely face criminal charges for a dog bite. Depending on the severity of injuries, a person at fault may be charged with a simple fine up all the way up to prison time. In addition to paying a fine, you may have to agree to certain conditions, such as:

  • Having the dog properly microchipped and that microchip number given to the local animal control agency;
  • Keeping it on a leash and muzzle when not in your home;
  • Posting signs on your property warning others about the presence of a dangerous dog on your premise; or,
  • Building a 6-foot tall fence;
  • building a 6-sided enclosure that your dog must be in any time you cannot be physically present outside with your dog (yes, even if you have a fence); or, worst of all:
  • Euthanizing the dog.

Speaking to an experienced Colorado Animal Attorney can help prevent some of the worst consequences to charges of Unlawful Ownership of a Dangerous Dog.

How Long Is There To File A Personal Injury Case for Dog Bite?

There are strict time limitations to filing a personal injury case for a dog bite. For example, in Colorado, a person has two years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. After that, the person loses the right to file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog.

Are Dogs Ever Put Down for Engaging in a Dog Attack?

Yes, dogs that have been deemed “dangerous” by the courts can be ordered to be euthanized. In cases where a dog kills another animal or human – or causes permanent disfigurement to a human, this euthanization order is MANDATORY. That includes situations where the animal that died was significantly smaller than your dog (i.e., German Shepherd vs. Chihuahua or cat).  This is based on a strict liability statute that states that any dog (regardless of whether the owner knew or had reason to know of its aggressive behavior) is liable for injuries caused by the dog if a person is bitten. While this is on the rare side, it does happen.

Should I Get a Lawyer If My Dog Is Responsible for an Attack?

Yes, you should get a lawyer if your dog is responsible for an attack. Our firm serves many cities in Colorado, and we are available to defend your dog against charges of dangerous animal, vicious animal, or aggressive animal, depending on the language of the ordinance or statute you are charged with.


If you are in Colorado and your dog bites someone, our team of experts is ready and waiting to help you to protect you from the consequences of an alleged dog attack and ensure that you get the best defense possible. Get in touch with us online.

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