Between 37% and 47% of American households have one or more dogs according to the American Pet Products Association. That’s between 70 and 80 million canine pets in this country.
While Colorado doesn’t rank among the top 10 states in dog ownership, anyone walking city streets or through the parks knows Coloradans love their dogs!
But do Colorado’s dogs love us back?
Most dogs don’t appear to pose a threat, but DogsBite.org has documented 283 deaths from dog bites between 2005 and 2013. Pit bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 75% of these attacks despite being less than 10% of the dog population.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that dogs bite 4.5 million people annually and 20% of those need medical attention. Half of those victims are children. In 2012, 27,000 dog bite victims required reconstructive surgery due to their injuries.
Additionally, there were 31 dog attack fatalities in 2013 according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The AVMA also found that dog bites accounted for one-third of homeowner liability claims that year. The average payment by insurance companies to settle a dog bite claim was just over $28,000.
Neither Pit Bulls nor Rottweilers rank in the top 10 of dog breeds owned in Colorado; although Rottweilers were the fifth most popular breed in Denver as recently as 2011. Coloradans prefer their Labrador Retrievers—the most popular dog breed here and in most of the country.
However, any dog can be aggressive. That’s why dog owners must take responsibility for their pets. Colorado has a “strict liability” legal standard for dog owners. They can be civilly liable for injuries caused by a dog bite or attack, even if the dog had no history of that kind of behavior. If the owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive tendency or violated dog control laws (like letting a dog run free), the owner may have to pay non-economic damages, like pain and suffering.
Dog bites and attacks shouldn’t be ignored or forgiven any more readily than a person to person assault. If you, your child or another loved one has been the victim of a dog attack, please seek medical attention as well as legal guidance.