As many people know, dogs can be highly unpredictable. More than 900 children and adults are seen in emergency rooms across the country every day for treatment of a dog bite attack. During the COVID-19 pandemic, one hospital in Colorado saw a threefold increase in the number of dog bite cases in the ER as stressed humans and their equally stressed canine friends spent an unusual amount of time in close quarters.

Some dog bites are minor and heal quickly, while many others require stitches, surgery, and hospitalization. In some cases, they can even be deadly. Victims, particularly the 40% of them who are children and adolescents, frequently suffer more than physical injuries. They need counseling and therapy to address significant emotional trauma.  

At Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, we help personal injury clients in Durango, Telluride, Pagosa Springs, Cortez, Colorado, and individuals throughout the Four Corners pursue civil claims against owners of dangerous dogs who failed to take reasonable care to protect others from their animals. If you have been the victim of a dog bite attack, contact our office today to schedule a free case evaluation.

What Is Premises Liability Law in Colorado?

Premises liability is the responsibility that property owners have to maintain a safe environment for people who are invited to enter their property. Although most states address dog bites under either a strict liability rule or a negligence rule, Colorado uses both — depending on the severity of the injury.

Colorado’s dog bite statute holds dog owners strictly liable if their dog causes serious bodily injury or death, even if the animal had never bitten or been aggressive toward anyone before. If the injuries are not serious, the victim can still sue the dog owner under the state’s negligence rules by proving that the owner failed in their duty of care to control the dog.



What Is Colorado’s Dog Bite Statute?

The dog bite statute applies strict liability only to dog bites. “Strict liability” means the owner is responsible for any injuries caused by their dog. The statute may be applied when the dog bite occurs on public property or while the victim is lawfully on private property — and when the victim sustains serious injury or death.

If any of the following apply, the dog owner may not be held liable:

  • The victim was trespassing

  • The victim provoked the dog

  • The property was clearly marked with “no trespassing” or “beware of dog” signs

  • The dog was working as a herding, farm, ranch, or hunting animal at the time of the attack

  • The dog was performing law enforcement or military duties

  • The victim is a veterinarian, dog groomer, handler, kennel worker, or acting in any similar roles

What Are the Key
Considerations in a Liability Claim?

There are five key areas of consideration relevant to your ability to pursue a personal injury claim resulting from a dog bite:

  1. You Must Prove Liability - This means you must prove that none of the exceptions listed above apply to the circumstances surrounding the attack.

  2. The Owner Must Have Insurance Coverage - The owner’s property or renter’s insurance must include liability coverage. If there is no insurance, there is no bodily injury liability coverage to file a claim against.

  3. The Injuries Must Be “Serious” - Serious bodily injuries are those that cause a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of any organ or body part. Serious injury also includes second- or third-degree fractures, cuts, or burns.

  4. You Can Only Pursue Certain Damages - These include economic damages such as current and future medical expenses, expenses for psychological counseling and therapy, and for current and future lost income and lost income potential.

  5. Non-Economic Damages Do Not Apply - In strict liability actions, non-economic damages do not apply, however, they can be pursued in negligence cases. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering and loss of companionship.

What Are Colorado’s Leash Laws?

Colorado does not have a statewide leash law, however, dogs are to be under control at all times for the safety of others. It’s also important to remember that many local and municipal governments do have leash ordinances. In Durango, for example, it is against the law for any owner, possessor, or authorized agent of any owner to fail to restrain their dog within the city limits, except in areas designated specifically for off-leash activities.

Put a Skilled Legal Team On Your Side Today

As with any personal injury claim, the burden of proving liability or negligence for the damages caused by a dog bite rests with the victim making the claim. A personal injury attorney experienced with representing dog bite victims can investigate the circumstances of the case, produce documentation of injuries, and quantify your damages. There’s also the challenge of whether any potentially liable party carries premises liability insurance. You benefit from having a skilled and experienced legal team on your side when pursuing any kind of compensation for your injuries.

Our attorneys at Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley have helped dozens of dog bite victims in Durango, Telluride, Pagosa Springs, and Cortez, Colorado, as well as individuals throughout the Four Corners. We do not back down from challenging personal injury cases or from insurance companies that make aggressive attempts to deny injury claims. Our top priority will be protecting your rights and advocating for your needs at every turn. We will do everything we can to fight for the compensation you need and deserve. Call or reach out to our office today to schedule your own free case consultation.


If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, don’t face this challenge on your own. Call or reach out to our firm, Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, today to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. You have only two years from the date of the injury to settle a claim or file a lawsuit in the appropriate Colorado court. Consultations are free so there is no reason to wait. Call our office and put our experience on your side!