Many of you are probably aware that I live in Colorado. As a favorite bumper sticker of mine says (in response to people who look down on transplants to the state), “not NATIVE – but I got here as fast as I could.” There are many things to love about Colorado, but if you are a dog owner, this area is truly sublime.

Dogs are everywhere. In fact, a friend once remarked that upon crossing the state line for the first time, new residents surely must be handed the keys to a Subaru with a dog in the back. Yes, the sight is that ubiquitous.

Pet owners in Colorado have more reason to celebrate this month. Our state legislative session just ended after passing two animal-friendly new bills, which were signed into law by our governor, John Hickenlooper, on Monday, May 13.

The Dog Protection Act was drafted in response to several well-publicized occurrences wherein law enforcement officers shot and killed family dogs. The officers claimed they discharged their weapons because the dogs were behaving aggressively, but in one case, the dog had been tasered and was already restrained at the end of a catch pole. That officer was later charged with animal cruelty.

The Dog Protection Act mandates sheriffs' offices and police departments to offer three hours of online training on recognizing dog behaviors and employing nonlethal control methods. The goal, as Governor Hickenlooper said is to “keep officers and animals safe." The bill was supported by law enforcement agencies and passed unanimously.

The second pet bill (SB 13-201)that was signed into law on Monday designated dogs and cats that are adopted from Colorado animal shelters and rescues as the state pets of Colorado. This was not as widely embraced as was the Dog Protection Act. As was reported in the Denver Post:

The battle to make dogs and cats adopted from shelter and rescue centers the official state pet pitted schoolkids against professional lobbyists representing purebred dog clubs, retailers, groomers and dog-show organizers.

The bill ultimately passed, 6-3, but there were moments when the students from Peakview School in Walsenburg thought their project, designed to help them learn about the legislative process, could go either way.

So many people arrived to testify that stragglers were left to find seats in the overflow room. Dog leashes stretched across the packed hallway, obstacles for the unwary, and piercing barks interrupted testimony. Griffin Kerr, the 3-year-old son of the bill's sponsor, Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, cavorted around the room dressed as a spotted dog because his preschool had just celebrated Dalmatian Day.

SB 13-201 passed both the state House and Senate and Governor Hickenlooper signed both bills into law in a ceremony held at the Denver Animal Shelter. Makes me proud to be a Coloradoan.

Dr. Jennifer Coates


Kids fight for abandoned dogs and cats to become Colorado state pets. Colleen O’Conner. The Denver Post. 3/22/2013

Image: Nick Chase 68 / via Shutterstock