Part Two: What is a Dangerous or Vicious Dog?
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it is imperative to know your rights as a dog bite victim. For more information on the overall process of declaring a dog dangerous or vicious, visit Part One of our series on dangerous and vicious dogs HERE. Part Two of our series on dangerous and vicious dogs, below, focuses on the factors used in determining whether a dog is dangerous or vicious.
Factors considered by the local county Animal Control Administrator in declaring a dog dangerous or vicious are laid out in the Animal Control Act. Under the Animal Control Act, a dog may be deemed dangerous in two situations. First, a dog will be deemed dangerous if: (1) the dog, (2) is not on the owner’s property, (3) is not muzzled, leashed, or is unattended by its owner, and (4) behaves in a manner that a reasonable person believes poses serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to a person or companion animal. 510 ILCS 5/2.05(a). Second, a dog will be deemed dangerous if: (1) the dog, (2) without justification, (3) bites a person, and (4) does not cause a serious physical injury. Id. Under the Act, the Administrator has to show by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that the dog satisfies all elements in either two situations laid out by the statute.
Similarly, under the Act, a dog may be deemed vicious in two situations. First, the dog may be deemed vicious if: (1) the dog, (2) without justification, (3) attacks a person, and (4) causes serious physical injury or death. 510 ILCS 5/2.19(b). Second, a dog will be deemed vicious if the dog was previously declared dangerous on three separate occasions. Id. Under the Act, the Administrator has to show by clear and convincing evidence that the dog satisfies all elements in either two situations laid out by the statute.
Under the Act, a serious physical injury is defined as a physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death or causes death, serious disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, impairment of the function of any bodily organ, or causes the victim to require plastic surgery. 510 ILCS 5/2.19(a).
However, just because the dog “meets” all the factors above to be deemed dangerous or vicious, the dog’s owner may have a defense or a justification as to why the dog attacked. Valid justifications include: (1) the victim was committing a crime or offense upon the dog’s owner, (2) the victim was trespassing upon the premises owned or occupied by the dog’s owner, (3) the victim was, or has in the past, abused, assaulted, or physically threatened the dog or its offspring, (4) the dog was responding to pain or injury, or (5) the dog was protecting itself, its owner, its offspring, or member of its kennel. 510 ILCS 5/15(a)(1)(2)(3). Furthermore, under the Act, law enforcement dogs, professionally trained guard dogs, guide dogs, support dogs, and accelerant detection dogs cannot be deemed vicious if the attack occurred while the dog was working. 510 ILCS 5/15(b). If the dog’s owner presents a valid defense or justification as to why the dog attacked, the dog will not be deemed dangerous or vicious.
If you have been injured as a result of a dog attack, it is likely that the dog that bit you will be declared dangerous or vicious. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to help you through the process. In order to preserve your legal rights, you should take immediate action by calling Animal Control and the police department in the city or county where the incident occurred. Then, contact John J. Malm & Associates.