Must-Know Denver Dog Laws & Dog Licensing Requirements

Whether you just moved to Denver, Colorado or you’ve been here for a while, you probably already know that Denverites LOVE their dogs! Dogs are part of the family.

Denver’s total dog population is a whopping 158,000. Considering Denver’s current population of around 711,400, there is at least 1 dog for every 4 people here. So it only makes sense that there are dog laws and ordinances in place to help keep the city clean, safe, peaceful, and fun for everyone. 

So whether you’re new to the city or you just need a refresher, this article discusses Denver dog licensing, the Denver leash laws, the Denver bite laws and more. We’ll cover the key basics about being a community-oriented and lawful dog parent in Denver.

What’s in This Guide?

1. The Rabies Vaccination is Legally Required in Denver

Denver’s Code of Ordinances states that rabies vaccination is required for dogs (as well as cats) over 6 months of age

  • If the dog is older than 6 months upon acquisition or ownership, the dog will need to be vaccinated within 30 days from acquisition. 
  • And if the dog is acquired at an age younger than 6 months, the owner needs to ensure the dog is vaccinated before reaching 6 months of age. 

Rabies vaccinations for dogs in Denver need to be initially administered and regularly updated by a licensed Colorado veterinarian.

What is the Purpose of Requiring Rabies Vaccinations?

Rabies is deadly to both people and the animals infected. The mortality rate of rabies is 99% for both people and animals. Apart from cats and dogs, wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes can contract and transmit the rabies virus. 

The high mortality rate of rabies, along with the disease’s numerous modes of transmission, makes the rabies virus a serious threat. By enforcing rabies vaccinations as a legal requirement to owning a pet, deadly cases of rabies can be prevented by communities across the United States. 

How Do I Get My Dog Vaccinated?

In Denver, rabies vaccinations, along with other types of core and non-core dog vaccines, can be obtained from your nearby primary care veterinarian. 

If you have a new puppy in the home, you can begin with the initial vaccination for rabies when the puppy is at least 3 months of age. As for pet parents of unvaccinated animals older than 6 months of age, it is recommended to schedule the animal’s rabies vaccination as soon as possible.

Is a Rabies Vaccination Needed for Dog Licensing?

Yes. Having an official certificate for rabies vaccination is one of the requirements needed when getting dog licensing in Denver. 

A close up of a vile of rabies vaccination, a type of canine vaccination needed for a Denver dog license

2. Spaying or Neutering is Legally Required in Denver

According to Denver’s Animal Ordinances and Legislation, dogs (as well as cats) that are over 6 months old are required to be spayed or neutered.

Both spaying and neutering are terms for the removal of the animal’s capacity to reproduce. Spaying (also known as ovariohysterectomy) is a procedure done on female pets — while neutering (also known as orchiectomy) is a procedure done on male pets. 

Note: It’s possible to have a dog exempted from spaying or neutering by getting an Intact Animal Permit from Denver Animal Protection. An intact permit, however, is NOT a permit for breeding. In the state of Colorado, breeding dogs or cats without a pet animal facility license is unlawful. Furthermore, a household may NOT have more than one intact (not spayed, not neutered) dog. 

The following are the conditions wherein a dog can be exempted from spaying or neutering:

  • As certified by a veterinarian, the dog is medically unfit to undergo spaying or neutering.
  • The dog is only temporarily in the city to participate in an event or show (which needs to be sponsored by a sanctioned organization.) 
  • The dog is only in the city for less than 30 days each year. 

Note: If you’re visiting Denver as a tourist and you’re bringing your dog along, reach out to local authorities for more information on requirements. 

What is the Purpose of Requiring Spaying or Neutering?

Spaying or neutering helps prevent uncontrolled animal overpopulation. This measure also prevents backyard breeding or cases wherein accidentally bred dogs won’t have a good home to care for them. 

Last but not least, spaying or neutering presents a number of health benefits for dogs such as the following:

  • An increase in the pet’s lifespan by an average of 1 to 3 years.
  • Reduced risk of developing certain types of cancer (e.g. mammary gland tumors, perianal tumors, testicular cancers)
  • Decreases the dog’s desire to roam or run off. (This reduces the risk of the animal getting lost or contracting diseases from other animals.)

How Do I Get my Dog Spayed or Neutered in Denver?

Spaying and neutering are considered routine surgical procedures. In veterinary medicine, routine surgeries encompass surgical procedures that are…

  • Not considered an emergency; 
  • Are performed on healthy animals; and 
  • Are not intended to correct a medical condition. 

Being a routine surgical procedure, spaying and neutering can be performed by a primary care veterinarian in Denver. 

Is Spaying or Neutering Needed for Dog Licensing? 

Yes. Having a signed statement or invoice indicating that a dog has undergone spaying or neutering is one of the requirements needed when getting a dog license in Denver. 

A puppy being examined at Sploot Vets, Denver before spaying - a requirement for Denver dog licensing

3. The Denver Dog License is Legally Required

According to the Denver Revised Municipal Code, cats and dogs that are older than 6 months of age need to be licensed. The Denver dog license or pet license is required within 30 days of the pet being in the city or within 30 days after the Denver dog or cat reaches 6 months of age. 

The only dogs that are exempted from needing Denver dog licensing are those being held for redemption or adoption by the Denver Animal Shelter.  

What is The Purpose of Denver Dog Licensing?

Denver dog licensing helps ensure that all dogs in the city have undergone required procedures, namely (1) rabies vaccination and (2) spaying or neutering. Dog licensing in Denver also helps the city keep track of dog and cat population. 

How do I Get a Denver Dog License?

It is estimated that around 82% of Denver pet owners don’t have a pet license in Denver. The good news is that the process of getting a Denver dog license is convenient and straightforward. Licenses can be purchased either online or in-person.

If you or anyone you know is looking to get a dog license in Denver, here is the list of paperwork you need. 

General Requirements:

  • An updated/current pet rabies vaccination certificate
  • A signed statement or invoice from a certified veterinarian that the pet has undergone spaying or neutering

Additional Requirements

  • For senior citizens over the age of 65, documents that serve as proof of age are required in order to get a pet license for free. The free license is restricted to one pet only. 
  • For dogs that are service animals, the person applying for the license is required to present a note stating what assistance the service animal provides. Service dogs also get a pet license for free.  

How Much is the Denver Dog License?

There are three kinds of Denver dog licenses available: the one-year license ($15), three-year license ($40), and lifetime license ($150). The durations of these licenses determine when a renewal (and payment, if applicable) is needed. 

Note: The lifetime license would only need to be paid once but still needs to be renewed. 

As touched on in the previous section, the Denver dog license can be issued for FREE in the following cases: 

  • The pet owner is a senior citizen — one pet license is free of charge. 
  • The dog is a service animal to a person with a disability.

Why Does the Lifetime Denver Dog Licensing Still Need Renewal?

Denver dog licensing helps ensure that dogs in the city have an updated rabies vaccination. After the initial vaccination and the rabies booster shot, dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies regularly, every three years.

In line with this, the lifetime Denver dog license still requires renewal to ensure that rabies vaccinations for the animal are up to date. Renewing a lifetime dog license, is, however, free of charge. 

A dog waiting at Sploot Vets, Denver, wearing all the necessary tags after getting a Denver dog license

4. Not Cleaning Up After Your Dog’s Poop in Denver Has Penalties

In Denver, pet parents are required by law to clean up their dog’s excrement. 

What is the Purpose of Requiring Pet Parents to Clean Up After Their Dogs in Denver?

This Denver dog law is for ensuring that Denver’s environment and urban surroundings are kept clean. By doing so, people, pets, and local wildlife are kept safe. 

How Much are the Fines for Failing to Pick Up After Your Dog in Denver? 

Failing to pick up dog poop has fines. For the first offense, the fine is $125. For the second and third violations, the fine is $50 and $100 respectively. 

Closeup of a dog poop bag held by a dog parent in Denver

5. It is Illegal to Leave a Pet Unattended in a Hot Car in Denver

According to Section 8 of the Denver County Ordinance , leaving a dog inside a hot vehicle is considered animal cruelty. In line with this ordinance, according to Colorado law, passersby are given permission (or immunity) to break a hot car’s window in order to save an unattended dog inside. This immunity, however, only applies for last resort rescue attempts to save a dog that is possibly dying. Passersby must first try to contact the owner or law enforcement before attempting to break the car’s windows. 

What is the Purpose of This Colorado Dog Law?

This Colorado dog law ensures that animal cruelty is avoided. Temperatures inside cars can rise quickly when the weather is warm — even if windows are left partially open. If a dog is left inside a hot vehicle, they might suffer from canine heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that results in several systemic complications.  

What is the Consequence of Leaving a Dog Unattended in a Hot Vehicle?

Pet owners who leave a dog unattended in a hot vehicle will be charged with animal cruelty. This can result in a fine of $999 and/or 1 year in jail.

A dog being let out of a car to avoid leaving the dog unattended in the car

6. Dogs in Denver are Required to be Leashed Except in Designated Areas

In Colorado, local governments are empowered to create leash laws that apply to their respective areas. According to the Denver Leash Law, it is unlawful for dogs to run around (off-leash) in public areas unless they are within an allotted off-leash area or park. In addition, while a dog is in an off-leash enclosure, the dog must remain under the supervision of a keeper or owner who is at least 18 years old. 

What is the Purpose of the Denver Leash Law

Similar to other dog laws and ordinances in this article, the Denver Leash Law ensures the safety of the community (and of the pets) in Denver. The Denver Leash Law fosters a sense of accountability so that dogs are kept under control by their owners whenever the dogs are outside of their homes.  

What is the Penalty for Breaking the Denver Leash Law

Dogs running loose in Denver will be caught and impounded. Penalties and fines for violating the Denver Leash Law can vary depending on the number of prior offenses. 

A big dog wearing a bandana from Sploot Vets Denver and is leashed while in a public park, in accordance with Denver’s leash laws 

7. Denver Dog Owners Need to Be Mindful of Their Dog’s Barking

In Denver, it is considered unlawful if a dog owner or dog keeper fails to prevent the dog from loudly and habitually making noise (e.g. barking, howling, yelping) — which could disturb the peace in the neighborhood. 

A legal complaint regarding excessive barking or noise-making will be signed by an animal protection officer and supported by a complaining witness. 

What is the Purpose of Holding Dog Owners Accountable for Excessive Barking?

Holding dog owners accountable for their pet’s behavior is the basis of numerous dog laws in Denver — and this applies to excessive barking as well. When owners are held accountable for their dog’s excessive barking or noise-making, it helps maintain a good quality of life for everyone in the community. 

What is the Penalty for Excessive Barking

The consequences or penalties for excessive barking are decided on a case-to-case basis. In general, excessive barking complaints could result in a violation notice, a monetary fine or court summons for the owner of the dog.

If a dog owner has failed to prevent excessive barking at least once AND has received subsequent complaints from more than one household, the dog will be declared a public nuisance. Following due process, the dog will then be impounded.

Closeup of a barking dog

8. Pit Bulls Need a Breed-Restricted Permit in Denver (On Top of the Dog License)

After three decades, the pitbull ban in Denver was lifted in November 2020. Now, pit bulls can be legally owned in Denver — as long as the owner secures the breed-restricted permit for the animal. 

According to Denver’s Municipal Code, a pit bull refers to any dog that falls under the following listed breeds or displays a majority of the physical traits or distinguishing features of the following listed breeds: 

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier

What is the Purpose of the Pit Bull Permit in Denver?

The recently overturned pit bull ban in Denver was enacted over 30 years ago, in the interest of public safety. This historical ban was enacted following a span of time (1984 to 1989) when several people were attacked by pit bulls. 

Taking the rationale of the historical pitbull ban into account, it sheds light on why the current breed-restricted permit is necessary. The breed-restricted permit creates added safety measures and fosters accountability for pit bull owners. 

How do I Get a Pit Bull Breed-Restricted Permit in Denver?

To register your pit bull in Denver, start by scheduling an appointment for breed assessment with Denver Animal Protection (DAP). The assessment will cost an additional $25 on top of the fee for the permit itself. 

Once the dog’s breed is confirmed, you will need to provide the following information: 

  • Name and address of the owner/keeper of the pit bull (where the pit bull will be located)
  • Names and addresses of two people who may be contacted to take responsibility in case of emergency
  • An accurate description of the pit bull

You will also need the following documents:

  • A recent photograph of the pit bull
  • Proof of spaying/neutering (or an intact license)
  • Proof of microchipping
  • Proof of an updated rabies vaccination
  • A dog license for the pit bull
  • Any other additional information that DAP reasonably requires

How Much is the Pit Bull Breed-Restricted Permit in Denver

The pit bull breed-restricted permit in Denver has a fee of $30 (per animal) and requires renewal every year. 

Is the Pit Bull Breed-Restricted Permit Required Indefinitely?

The permit is required for a time span of at least three years. If the pit bull has had zero violations within three years, the owner may be notified that they no longer need a breed-restricted permit moving forward.

A pit bull in Denver which requires a pit bull breed restricted permit to be legally in the city

9. Denver Dog Owners Face Strict Dog Bite Liabilities

When it comes to dog bite laws, Denver, Colorado does not follow the “one-bite rule,” —wherein victims of a dog bite or attack can only sue if the dog has bitten someone else before. This rule, which is used by a number of states, is based on the premise that a dog owner needs to be aware of a dog’s viciousness or aggressive tendencies before being liable for a dog bite. 

In Colorado, however, there are strict liability laws when it comes to dog bites. As long as the victim of the dog bite was lawfully at the property where they were attacked, the owner of the dog will be liable for damages.

What is the Purpose of Colorado’s Strict Dog Bite Laws? 

Colorado’s strict dog bite laws keep dog owners accountable for the whereabouts and behavior of their pets. This helps create a safer community for everyone.

What are the Consequences if Your Dog Bites Someone in Colorado?

Following a dog bite or dog attack, victims can pursue civil action to recover either economic damages alone or both economic and non-economic damages. The latter means that full compensation is given to the victim for their injuries, going beyond basic compensation for medical expenses.

What Do Colorado’s Dog Bite Laws Say About Intruders?

If the dog bite is inflicted on home intruders or similar perpetrators, this will affect the case. It’s considered a viable defense for dog owners if the victim of the bite has done the following:

  • Made an unlawful entry into a home or where the animal is kept
  • Threatened the dog owner (thereby provoking the dog)
  • Threatened, provoked, or harmed the dog directly
  • Attempted to assault another person
A German Shepherd guard dog at a Denver home

Final Thoughts on Denver Dog Licensing & Other Dog Laws

We hope you found this guide helpful to being an informed, community-oriented dog parent in Denver!  As a reminder, Denver’s mandatory dog licensing acts as a foundation for other dog laws that ensure public safety. If you’re about to renew or get a Denver dog license for your furry friend, we’re here to help you get all the medical requirements sorted out. 

Sploot Veterinary Care is your go-to pet clinic for primary and urgent care needs. Our doors are open until 10pm, 365 days a year. Give us a call or book an appointment here or through the Sploot Vets app — we welcome same-day appointments as well as urgent intakes!

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