May 052004
Authors: Joanna Larez

Gov. Bill Owens signed a statewide law prohibiting laws that

regulate dangerous dogs by targeting a specific breed.

House Bill 1279 holds owners liable the first time their dog

attacks and injures someone. The victim can file a civil suit to

get monetary damages against the dog owner or the owner’s insurance

company. If the owner is proven to have knowledge of the dog’s

viciousness or dangerous tendencies, the victim can request that

the dog be euthanized at the owner’s expense.

“It gets rid of the first-bite-free rule,” said Rep. Bob

McCluskey, R-Larimer.

McCluskey is a supporter of the bill.

“We felt insurance should pay, even on the first bite,”

McCluskey said.

McCluskey said the bill is a step in the right direction in

response to the problem of dog attacks. Dogs that are trained for

protection are dangerous, especially in urban settings, McCluskey


He said testimony was given to the Colorado House agriculture,

livestock and natural resources committee, in which incidents of

reported attacks were broken down.

“There were dispersions among different breeds,” McCluskey


The numbers for pit bulls were not too far from other breeds

such as Dobermans and Rottweilers. Pit bulls have a stereotype for

being the dangerous breed, McCluskey said.

The lawsuit is not directly about the dogs. It is also

addressing the issue that the state is crossing into a city’s


“It is not an issue that comes up every day, at least not in the

city of Fort Collins,” said Ingrid Decker, Fort Collins assistant

city attorney.

Fort Collins is not interested in a lawsuit against the recent

bill, because the city does not have a ban against a particular

breed. The city only has restrictions on vicious animals.

Since there has not been a restriction on pit bulls, Nick

Phillips, a Front Range Community College student, is not breaking

any laws by owning two happy pit-bull puppies. Trouble is a

6-month-old male Beam bull and Mugsy is a 4-month-old female pit


Phillips and one of his friends plan on starting a pit-bull

kennel in the near future.

“Our kennel will provide non-aggressive (pit bulls),” Phillips

said. “We will focus on temperament, so the dogs can be in any

situation and won’t freak out.”

Phillips said when pit bulls are trained for protection

purposes, if they become uneasy they are more likely to attack.

When people usually find out that Phillips has pit bulls, they

step away until they interact with the dogs.

“They are the most friendly dogs in the world,” Phillips


Phillips did not always embrace the breed. The negative

stereotypes about pit bulls being mean and dangerous dogs made him

apprehensive about interacting with them. After interacting with

friends’ pit bulls, however, Phillips decided to get some.

Phillips’ parents were not excited about his investment in the


“My parents gave me crap when I got the dogs,” Phillips said.

“Once they met (the dogs), they fell in love with them.”

Kelli Pearson, sophomore speech communication major, used to

have a fear of pit bulls because of the negative portrayals of

them. After interacting with friendly pit bulls, Pearson has

changed her views of the breed. She believes dogs can be trained to

be nice.

“I love them to death,” Pearson said.

Deaths and injuries caused by pit bulls throughout the years

have led to bans of the breed in Denver and Wellington counties.

For the last 15 years, if a pit bull was residing in Denver, it

would be impounded once, and if found again, it would be


“Punish the deed, not the breed,” Phillips said.

The dogs do what they are taught, and the owners should take

responsibility for this, Phillips said.

Phillips is training his puppies to not fight. He said Trouble

was once bitten by an adult, male dog at the local dog park, and he

rolled over and submitted. Phillips works with his puppies at home

and he also takes them to Aurora once a week to the American School

of Dog.

Pit bulls have left an impression of extreme loyalty to

Phillips. He said they need plenty of time and attention.

“Their main goal in life is to get their owner’s approval,”

Phillips said.

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