Dog bite law in Illinois is governed by The Animal Control Act. The Act actually applies to all animals. Under 510 ILCS 5/16, “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.” The law further defines “Owner” as any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian, or who knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by him or her. Liability extends beyond just the owner, to the person in control of the animcal at the time of the injury. The primary defense to dog bite cases is provocation.
Until to The Animal Control Act, the Common Law required that the owner have prior knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensities. The Act eliminated the “one-bite” rule. Prior to The Animal Control Act, the plaintiff was required to prove that the dog owner either knew, or was negligent in not knowing the dog had a propensity to injure people. The Act codified the law that it is the person in control of the animal at that moment that must control the animal.
As a result of the Statute, an owner is liable when the animal either attacks OR injures any person. While the public generally thinks about dog bites, an aggressive violent action is not required. Any action, which results in injury, is covered by the Statute. Dog owners have been held liable in situations where a dog chased a bike rider causing the rider to fall, when a dog runs into the road and causes a car wreck, and when a dog greeting a person knocks the person over.