Reporting Dangerous and Vicious Dogs

The Chicago Dog Bite Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. understand the devastating impact that an animal attack can have, both for the victim involved, and to their family as well. While it would be ideal if we could rely on others to practice responsible pet ownership, as injury attorneys, we know far too well that such reliance is neither safe nor realistic. Consequently, if you have encountered or become aware of a dog in your community that poses a safety risk, it is helpful to know the law, both in Illinois and in your particular municipality, as well as measures that can be taken to protect yourself and others from injury or harm.

Pursuant to state law, 510 ILCS 5, sections 2.05(a) and 2.19(b) of the Animal Control Act, defines dangerous and vicious dogs as follows:

"Dangerous dog" means (i) any individual dog anywhere other than upon the property of the owner or custodian of the dog and unmuzzled, unleashed, or unattended by its owner or custodian that behaves in a manner that a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to a person or a companion animal or (ii) a dog that, without justification, bites a person and does not cause serious physical injury.

"Vicious dog" means a dog that, without justification, attacks a person and causes serious physical injury or death or any individual dog that has been found to be a "dangerous dog" upon 3 separate occasions.

If you have concerns over a dog that exhibits dangerous or vicious tendencies, there are many ways you can assist in ensuring the safety of the public. Determining the appropriate action(s) to take will generally depend on (1) the nature and extent of prior incidents involving the dog in question and whether there is evidence to support your claims; and (2) the location of the alleged ‘problematic’ dog. In more serious cases, a resident may want to seek to have a dog deemed as ‘vicious,’ as defined above. As set forth in section 15(a) of the Animal Control Act:

“The Administrator, State's Attorney, Director or any citizen of the county in which the dog exists may file a complaint in the circuit court in the name of the People of the State of Illinois to deem a dog to be a vicious dog.” (emphasis added)

However, in order to have the dog deemed vicious, the petitioner must prove the dog is a vicious dog by clear and convincing evidence. In other words, merely stating that a dog is or may be vicious, without providing the court with sufficient credible evidence, will generally not be enough have a dog deemed vicious.

In less serious cases, such as where a dog has not yet attacked or bitten, but there are concerns that such animal may do so in the future, there are less invasive measures that can be taken to help protect yourself and others. Complaints regarding nuisance-causing, threatening, or potentially dangerous dogs can be reported to either (1) Animal and Care and Control for the county in which the dog is located; or (2) the Local Police Department for the city in which the dog is located. It is important that residents know that such complaints will generally remain confidential, and any personal information provided is so that the Officer responding to the complaint can contact you for more information or to follow-up with you during/following the investigation.

Unfortunately, we have seen far too many cases in which an unsuspecting victim was attacked by a dangerous or vicious dog, and it was later discovered that others in the community were aware of the dog’s problematic nature, yet failed to report the animal to officials. As seasoned dog bite and animal attack practitioners, we find such incidents to be particularly disturbing. It is important that residents protect one another, by reporting incidents whenever there is a concern that the animal may cause harm to a person or another animal.

In the event that an incident involving a dog attack or bite has already occurred, the law in Illinois is quite clear in providing the victim with a means of obtaining financial recovery for damages incurred, so long as the attack occurred without provocation. Contact the Chicago injury team of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., either online, or by calling 773-516-4100, and allow our experienced dog bite attorneys to explain your legal rights to compensation.

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