Part One: The Process
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you will need to know your rights in having that dog declared dangerous or vicious. Determining whether a dog is deemed dangerous or vicious is governed by both the Animal Control Act and by local city and county ordinances. For more information about the Animal Control Act, visit our previous blog HERE. In DuPage County, Chapter 5 of the DuPage County Code of Ordinances governs dog bite investigations.
Under the DuPage County Code of Ordinances, a person bitten by a dog should notify the police immediately after the bite. Pursuant to the Illinois Compiled Statutes, a veterinarian then must examine the dog within 24 hours of the bite. 510 ILCS 5/13(a-5). After examination by a veterinarian, the dog must be confined for evaluation for a period of ten days beginning within 24 hours of the bite. The confinement does not have to be at a veterinarian’s office, but can be in the owner’s home. 510 ILCS 5/13. During the period of confinement, local animal control and the county’s Animal Control Administrator will begin a thorough investigation to determine whether the dog should be deemed dangerous or vicious. 510 ILCS 5/15.1(a). The Administrator must send notice of the investigation to the dog’s owner within 10 days of the Administrator becoming aware of the bite. Id. During this investigation, the Administrator will interview any witnesses to the dog bite, interview the dog’s owner, gather medical records and veterinary records, and make a detailed report. Id.
After the Administrator conducts an investigation, the Administrator can declare the dog dangerous by a preponderance of the evidence. If the Administrator believes the dog should be declared vicious, the local state’s attorney office or any citizen can file a complaint in the local circuit court. Once a complaint has been filed in court, the Administrator must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the dog is vicious. 510 ILCS 5/15. For more information on the factors used to determine whether the dog should be declared dangerous or vicious, visit Part Two of our series on dangerous and vicious dogs HERE and our page on dog bites and animal attacks HERE.
Once the dog has been declared dangerous or vicious, the Administrator must notify the dog’s owner of the declaration via registered or certified mail. After notice has been sent to the dog’s owner, the owner has 35 days to appeal the Administrator’s determination by filing a complaint against the Administrator in the local circuit court. 510 ILCS 5/15.3.
If, after the Administrator’s finding and the dog owner’s appeal, the dog has been deemed dangerous, the dog’s owner must pay a $50 public safety fine, spay or neuter the dog at the owner’s expense, and microchip the dog at the owner’s expense. 510 ILCS 5/15.1(d). In addition, the Administrator may order the dog to be evaluated by a certified behavior specialist, be muzzled in public, and/or be under the direct supervision of an adult who can keep the dog under sufficient control. 510 ILCS 5/15.1(d)(e).
If the dog has been deemed vicious, the dog’s owner must pay a $100 public safety fine, spay or neuter the dog within 10 days at the owner’s expense, microchip the dog within 10 days at the owner’s expense, and must be confined in an enclosure at all times. 510 ILCS 5/15(a)(b). Additionally, a court can order the dog to be humanely euthanized. 510 ILCS 5/15(a). If the vicious dog’s owner fails to keep the dog in the enclosure, fails to spay or neuter the dog in the applicable 10 day period, and the dog inflicts serious physical injury or causes the death of another person, the dog’s owner can be found guilty of a Class 3 felony. 510 ILCS 5/2.11(a).
If you have been injured as a result of a dog attack, you should take immediate action in order to protect your legal rights. Call animal control and the police department in the city or county where the incident occurred. Anyone bitten or attacked by the dog should go directly to the emergency room to receive medical treatment. Then, contact a DuPage County dog bite lawyer, at John J. Malm & Associates, to learn more about how you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries.