Articles Posted in Dog Bite Injuries

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Under the Illinois Animal Control Act, anyone who owns, keeps, or harbors an animal that injures a person without provocation, who is acting peacefully in a place where that person has a legal right to be, can be held liable for damages arising out of the occurrence.

This statute does not apply to landowners where a dog is present and attacks a person where the person who owns the property does not also own the dog. There may be a narrow exception in Illinois law, apart from the Animal Control Act, where a property owner can be held responsible, based on common law negligence, if with prior knowledge of viciousness a dog is allowed to be on the property and injures another person. But, recent Illinois decisions have pointed toward shifting responsibility for dog attacks to the actual animal owners, rather than a landlord who doesn’t have control over property that has been leased to a tenant.

The difference between cases in Illinois where the property owner is held legally responsible and those where the property owner is not has to do with the question of who controls the property. Landlords have been held not to be legally in control of certain property that is rented out to tenants. However, there may be other legal responsibilities a landowner has if he or she allows a dog the landowner knows to be vicious to roam property the property owner lives on or controls.

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Millions of people suffer dog bites every year. Illinois law holds dog owners liable if their dog attacks someone under the following circumstances:

• The attack is unprovoked.

• The victim is peaceably conducting him or herself in a location where he or she has a legal right to be.

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The most important thing to do if you are ever bitten by a dog is to seek medical attention immediately. In some cases, dog bites can cause infections that can lead to further medical problems. Once you are safe and in stable condition be sure to document your injuries. Get copies of your medical records and take pictures if possible.

Next, gather what information you can about the dog’s owner at the time of the incident. These facts will be relevant when you consider whether or not to pursue legal action.

In general, actions seeking relief for dog bite injuries in Illinois may be filed under common law theories of negligence and strict liability. In certain cases they can also be filed pursuant to the Illinois Animal Control Act, 510 ILCS 5/16 (the “Act”). The following elements are necessary In order for this Act to apply to a particular dog bite case:

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Four year old Alex Angulo was killed last Sunday when he was mauled to death by a Rottweiler dog on Chicago’s Southwest Side. The young boy, who had already lived at four separate foster homes, had recently opened dialogue with foster parents interested in permanent adoption. The dog mauling occurred in the foster family’s backyard where the family kept two Rottweiler dogs. Chicago Police are investigating why the boy was left unattended in the back yard. Reports indicate that a caregiver had been using a snowblower in a nearby alley just prior to the deadly dog bite accident. Angulo was taken to Holy Cross Hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 4:15 p.m. Mark Rosenthal, operations manager of the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control, reports that his agency removed the Rottweilers from the scene of the dog attack. The foster family also kept one poodle which was later brought to an animal control facility. All three of the dogs have been euthanized according to a staff worker at Chicago’s Animal Care and Control. The number of animals involved in the attack remains unclear.

The Illinois dog attack raises questions regarding the precautions taken by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) in foster child placement. According to DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe, “There was an understanding that the dogs lived outside, and the child would not have unsupervised contact with the dogs.” Alex had been placed in the care of a 77 year-old Southwest Side woman who had originally obtained a care license in 2000. Because of her advanced age, primary care of the boy was performed by the elderly woman’s son, whom Alex referred to as “uncle”. A Juvenile Court judge had recently determined that the foster home was not a good long term fit for Alex due to the age of the foster mother. In responding to the attack, Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris questioned the DCFS placement saying, “You don’t just say, ‘OK, the kid won’t go into the yard.’ I don’t know if you can always promise that with a four year old.” At least one neighbor who has asked not to be identified reported that the dogs were very aggressive,