Illinois Animal Control Act

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Our Chicago Dog Bite & Animal Attack Attorneys represent the victims of those injured or harmed in an incident involving a dog or other animal. As seasoned attorneys, Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. takes note that determining the applicable law in a given case is not always easy for victims, and understandably so. There is federal law, state law, and local law. Further, a victim may perform a search on a particular topic, and misinterpret case law and/or common law principles in a manner that leads them to a mistaken conclusion regarding their right to financial compensation. While in some cases, other legal provisions may apply (i.e. government liability, insurance law, contract law, common-law negligence), the most important law, for victims seeking civil damages in a dog-related incident occurring within this state, is the Illinois Animal Control Act.

In the vast majority of states, ‘one-bite’ laws have been replaced with animal control laws that hold dog owners strictly liable, in some form or another, for injuries or damages caused to another. In adopting its Animal Control Act, the state of Illinois eliminated this so called ‘one-bite rule,’ which, at common law, required the plaintiff to plead and prove that a dog owner either knew or was negligent in not knowing that a dog has a propensity to injury people. Docherty v.Sadler, App. 4 Dist.1997, 228 Ill.Dec. 460, 293 Ill.App.3d 892, 689 N.E.2d 332. As such, under current law, ignorance of your particular dog’s propensities, cannot, in most cases, serve as defense for purposes of escaping liability in the event your dog inflicts harm upon another in an unprovoked attack.

While plaintiff need not prove defendant's negligence under Animal Control Act, the statute does not impose absolute liability on animal owners. See, Guthrie v. Zielinski, App. 2 Dist.1989, 133 Ill.Dec. 341, 185 Ill.App.3d 266, 541 N.E.2d 178. Consequently, the law in Illinois adheres to a modified form, or variation of, strict liability when dealing with dog bite injuries and attacks. In other words, the Act was not meant to impose strict liability on dog owners for all injuries caused by dogs, except those intentionally provoked, but rather was drawn toeliminate as much as possible any inquiry into subjective considerations. See, Nelson v. Lewis, App. 5 Dist.1976, 36 Ill.App.3d 130, 344 N.E.2d 268

To recover under dog bite statute, four elements must be proved: injury caused by dog owned/harbored by defendant; lack of provocation; peaceable conduct; and lawful presence. In addition, the injuries or damages sustained by the victim, must be proximately caused by the dog attack. To view more information regarding liability and causation, see Liability in Dog Bites and Animal Attacks,’ and the resources provided therein. Before viewing this, however, it is important to understand what constitutes an attack, injury, or harm, such that a victim may be entitled to recover damages under Illinois Law.

First and foremost, the Act does not limit recovery to incidents in which a dog (or other animal) attacks or bites another, nor does it require that both an attack an injury occur. Rather, the incident need only involve a dog (or other animal), and fall within the type of incident covered under the Act. As expressed in prior opinions:

The word "attack", as used in the Animal Control Act, is not limited to actual physical contact, but also encompasses aggressive, threatening or menacing behavior that does not culminate in biting or other injury. Growling, baring teeth and threatening to bite or pounce, would come within the general usage and definition of the term, as would charging, even if physical contact is not achieved. Actual physical contact or biting is not a necessary element of an "attack". 2002 Ill. Atty. Gen. Op. 001

At the same time, consider the following:

Merely chasing a person, could be interpreted either as an attack or more benignly, depending upon the surrounding circumstances. A dog seeking play or companionship may chase a person without intending to "set upon forcefully" or to cause injury. Injury or harm which a dog may inadvertently cause by playful or benign behavior, would not be considered an "attack" within the purview of the statute. 2002 Ill. Atty. Gen. Op. 001

So, in understanding Illinois’ Animal Control Act, a victim can be bicycling, operating a motor vehicle, and driving an all-terrain vehicle, and either collide with or be chased by a dog, and may still be entitled to relief under the act. Victims must remember that personal injury includes bodily harm, as well as emotional, mental, and/or psychological harm. Consequently, if you are involved in an incident with a dog or other animal, it is imperative that you fully understand your legal rights.

To obtain free personal injury consultation, Contact the Chicago Dog Bite Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. online, or by calling us at 773-516-4100.

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