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The First Bite Rule and Dog Bites in Colorado

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Do you know what really bites? Getting bitten of course! It’s something that happens every day for a wide variety of reasons. Even normally placid animals can snap under certain circumstances, and a dog bite is a nasty thing.

It’s important for both pet owners and bite victims to know that Colorado does indeed follow the “first bite rule,” but with some modifications. According to Noah Klug, principal of The Klug Law Firm, in his Summit Daily News column, the “first bite rule” refers to the general stance taken in most states that “an owner is generally not liable for injuries caused by an animal unless the owner knew or should have known that the animal is vicious or has dangerous propensities.” Klug goes on to explain how dog bites in Colorado deviate a bit from this rule:

In the case of dogs, there is a special statute that permits a victim to recover for physical injuries. Unlike under the ‘first bite rule,’ the statute does not require the victim to present evidence about the dog’s vicious or dangerous propensities, or about the owner’s knowledge that the dog might bite. However, if the victim can show that the dog’s owner knew the dog might bite, the victim can seek to have the dog euthanized at the owner’s expense.

This statute applies to “any domesticated animal related to the fox, wolf, coyote, or jackal,” and allows recovery only for physical injury, not for mental or psychological pain and suffering. It also applies whether the injury occurred on private or public property. It does make exceptions for trespassers and bite victims who deliberately taunt the attacking animal.

These types of cases are of concern to pet owners, as well as bite victims, so if you fall into either category, I recommend reading this recent column in Vail Daily. It’s co-authored by Char Quinn, executive director of the Eagle Valley Humane Society, and Mark Ruark, owner of  P.E.T.S. Inc. It’s a great primer on understanding what may frighten your pooch enough to bite. As they remind us, any dog can potentially bite:

For some dogs it may take only one thing to get them to bite, while others it may take a series of factors. For example, a dog that is afraid of loud noises, afraid of people in hats, and possessive of his food might not bite over those factors individually. But if you put them all together: someone wearing a hat approaches your dog while he is at his food bowl and a loud thunderstorm rolls in — this combination could push Fido over his threshold.

Image by Lucid Nightmare on Flickr, used under its Creative Commons license

 

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