Can I Be Arrested for Shooting an Attacking Dog in Colorado?

Doug Richards here for U.S. LawShield of Colorado. I want to talk to you today about an issue that has come up quite a bit lately and has become a problem for one of our U.S. LawShield Members in particular. That is, whether or not you can shoot a dog or another animal that is about to attack you or do you have to wait for the animal to actually attack you? It’s kind of a gray area in Colorado law.

Under Colorado law, there’s no specific statute that allows you to discharge a firearm on any animal that’s either attacking you or attacking your dog. But the law in Colorado would allow you to use self-defense, including deadly force to protect yourself or a third party from what you reasonably believe to be the use of deadly force by another person, or in this situation, an animal.

If you were walking in your neighborhood and a loose dog came out and was threatening you, you would be able to use deadly force to protect yourself against that animal, as long as it was reasonable under the circumstances. Now, you would not be able to articulate a reasonable explanation to law enforcement if you were just using deadly force or discharging your firearm to protect your own dog. However, if you could articulate that you were in fear that the attacking animal was going to turn its attention and aggression towards you, then you would be able to assert the use of deadly force in self-defense.

Now, there are other affirmative defenses you could use. There is no real necessity defense or affirmative defense in Colorado. Instead, we have something called the choice of evils. With the choice of evils defense, you’d be able to argue if you were being charged with a crime, that you really had no other choice under the circumstances but to employ the use of deadly force, or to shoot this animal that was coming after you or threatening to attack you.

In terms of what you could be charged with, there’s a litany of charges. You could be charged with illegal discharge of a firearm or displaying of a firearm. Depending on the facts, if you were displaying it to somebody else, you could potentially be charged with menacing. All of these bring either misdemeanor or felony range charges and, more importantly, as a collateral consequence you could lose your CCW privileges as result of this. And we’ve had situations where clients are acquitted or the charges are dismissed, and then we’ve got to go back to the sheriff and try to get their license back, their CCW back. And that can be more difficult than you would imagine because the sheriff isn’t necessarily bound by the same burden of proof that the DA is bound by, when they are trying to prove this. Whether or not you’ve done this or not in a criminal form.

Getting your license back with the Sheriff is an administrative process. The sheriffs in my experience, really take the offense reports and whatever’s been written in those offense reports as gospel. Make sure you contact us at U.S. LawShield or me directly at my office, always happy to talk to U.S. LawShield Members about this or anything else.

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