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Can I File a Lawsuit if Another Dog Attacks My Dog?

May 22, 2019

The abundance of dog parks and other similar venues within the Denver city limits as well as in other surrounding areas attests to just how well many dogs get along when given the opportunity. Visit one of these parks to see a variety of dogs of all shapes and sizes cavorting happily, usually with nary a nip or snarl. However, dogs are animals, and thus unpredictable. This can leave the possibility for dog fights and other unfortunate circumstances a possibility at any time.

What happens when one dog attacks another? Can you file a lawsuit if your dog is the victim of an attack by another dog? What should you do in these circumstances?

What Happens When One Dog Attacks Another?

Colorado statute remains clear regarding the strict liability of dog owners whose dogs severely injure a person. The statute requires dog owners to compensate the victim for the monetary damages suffered as the result of a dog bite. Compensation comes in the form of medical bills, missed work, and other financial damages. Victims must pursue a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages under the statute.

However, the statute does not mention damages incurred as the result of a dog-on-dog attack. Colorado statute does not extend protection to canine victims of dog attacks because the strict liability provision only extends to humans. In fact, dogs are property under Colorado law. As such, dogs are subject to property laws rather than retaining the rights of a human victim. If a dog injures your dog, you must file a property damage lawsuit to attempt to recover your damages.

However, property damage lawsuits do not assign strict liability. Instead, you must prove that the other dog’s owner owed you a duty to prevent damages to your property – in this case, your dog – and failed in some way to fulfill that duty. In other words, you must prove that the owner’s negligence resulted in damages to your dog.

In addition, the other dog owner cannot hold legal liability unless certain situations apply.

  • The dog was previously on the Colorado dangerous dog registry for a previous incident regarding harm to a person or other animal of any degree.
  • The dog’s owner previously knew of the dog’s aggressive nature.
  • The dog owner violated a leash law, confinement law, or other local ordinance that exists to provide for the health, welfare, and safety of citizens, known as negligence per se.

How Do You Prove Liability?

Property damage theory of liability classifies all intentional property damage as eligible for compensation. In other words, the owner must have intentionally interfered with your property – in this case, your dog – in order to become liable. By allowing a known aggressive dog, or dog that previously showed the tendency to become aggressive, to interact with your dog, or by knowingly violating a law, the owner allowed damage to your dog.

The owner’s knowledge of a dog’s aggressive behavior is as simple as observing a dog acting aggressively towards other dogs at a dog park. However, you must prove the owner had knowledge that the dog was aggressive. Unless the dog owner actively violated a law, registered the dog on the Colorado dangerous dog registry, or retained a previous conviction for a previous incident with the same dog, you may experience difficulty proving liability.

What Should You Do?

If your dog suffered an attack from another dog, damaging its property value and accruing veterinary bills, you may desire to pursue a property damage lawsuit against the owner. First, determine whether you have sufficient proof that the dog owner either broke a law or had knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness. If possible, retain any eyewitness testimony to the dog’s previous behavior or the behavior immediately before the attack. Then, contact a trusted Denver dog bite lawyer for more information regarding the likelihood of recovering your financial damages.