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.
Proper analysis by an experienced, competent attorney is important in navigating the circumstantial nuances of any dog bite case.
© Joseph Klest, 2014.