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Dog Bites: Is the Owner Responsible?


Whether you own a dog or know someone who owns a dog, it is not unusual to encounter the incident of a dog bite. Illinois, and more specifically Chicago, law provides protection for citizens from dog attacks. Furthermore, the law establishes that liability is placed on the owners of the dogs in most situations.

Under the Animal Control Act (the Act), the dog’s owner is generally responsible for their dog injuring a person in Illinois. It is the expectation that the owners must take reasonable measures to control the actions of their dogs. Under Section 16 of the Act, “If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.” 510 ILCS 5/16. As Section 16 of the Act states, the owner of the dog is primarily responsible for civil damages if their dog attacks another person in Illinois.

In addition, the Act also delineates the responsibilities of dog owners to control and restrain their dogs. In some situations, more responsibility is placed on the owner. For example, if the dog is considered “dangerous” or “vicious,” the owner is responsible for enclosing or restraining the dog. The Act defines a “dangerous dog” as any dog 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 a dog that bites a person without justification, but does not cause serious physical injury. 510 ILCS 5/2.05a. To be considered a “vicious dog,” a dog must attack a person without justification and cause serious physical injury or death. 510 ILCS 5/2.19b. If the dog has been found to be a "dangerous dog" upon 3 separate occasions, it may also be deemed “vicious.” In Illinois, if a dog is deemed dangerous or vicious, the owner is responsible for enclosing or restraining their dog.

However, the Chicago Municipal Code also induces specific regulations regarding animal care and control within the City of Chicago. Under Title 7, Health and Safety, of the Municipal Code of Chicago, chapters 7-12 are dedicated to animal care and control. The Municipal Code provides that dogs are required to be confined inside the property line of the owner; this includes reaching their heads through, under or over a fence. Municipal Code of Chicago, 7-12-030. Furthermore, if the dog is deemed to be dangerous, there are additional requirements for restraining the dog or animal. This includes extensive measures to confine the animal, muzzle requirements, sterilization, microchipping, liability insurance, obedience training and many other stipulations. Municipal Code of Chicago, 7-12-050.

In summary, when a dog bites someone in Illinois, the owner can be held legally responsible for compensating the victim. The owner is not only potentially responsible for medical bills, but also for pain and suffering, lost employment, disfigurement and mental anguish; total restitution for the harm committed to the victim. If you have recently been attacked or bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the skilled and experienced attorneys at Sherwood Law Group at 312-627-1650 for a free consultation and case review.
Categories: personal injury