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In Your Court: A warning to pet owners, parents

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 2:49 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 10:42 p.m. CST

Now that winter has finally left us, I’ve noticed the children in my neighborhood are coming out of hibernation, riding their bikes on the sidewalks, running through yards playing tag and generally exploring the neighborhood’s nooks and crannies. However, I’ve also noticed that the family dog is also allowed to stretch its legs and roam the front and back yards, and therein lies the potential of an incident.

The Illinois Animal Control Act (hereafter referred to as ACA) applies to any animal that can be affected by rabies, except man. As animals, like humans, can be unpredictable, the ACA creates a cause of action that imposes liability on the pet owner for the actions of his or her pet with limited defenses.

“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," states statute 510 ILCS 5/16.

For the benefit of our readers who are dog “owners” (please be advised that the ACA expands the definition of “owner”), one Illinois court ruled the mere presence of an individual on someone’s property does not qualify as “provocation” under the ACA, and reminds us that a path or walkway provided by the property owner from the public walkway to the front door (such as a driveway), without warning, extends a license for its use during ordinary day hours. So, if children run up your driveway and your dog bites them, you may be liable.

For the benefit of our readers who are parents, a more recent Illinois case states young children, even 2 years of age, have the ability to provoke animals, even though children under the age of 7 are incapable of being negligent; therefore, the children may be at fault for injury without recompense.

The lesson: Dog owners and parents should both be careful during the summer. 

• Anthony Scifo is a resident of Kane County and an associate attorney with Shaw, Jacobs, Goostree and Associates P.C. in St. Charles, where he concentrates in divorce and family law, personal injury and wrongful death. His goal with this occasional column is to help educate the public regarding the court system and the law. Contact him with general legal questions at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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