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Official action rare in dog bite cases

Many Illinois residents consider their dog to be a cherished member of the family, but they understand that even well behaved companion animals can sometimes act unpredictably. However, official legal action relating to a dog attack is quite rare, and the state's attorney has only pursued two such cases in the last six years.

While a vicious dog attack may be rare, a dog bite is not. There have been more than 25,000 dog bite incidents reported in Cook County since 2008, but only a fraction of them have led to more than routine action by animal control. Even the incidents that are investigated rarely lead to dog owners facing any kind of criminal sanctions. State law requires that law enforcement officers and veterinarians notify the Cook County Animal Control Department when they encounter a dog bite case. However, there is usually no action taken provided that the dog in question has an up-to-date rabies vaccination.

In more serious cases, the dog could be labelled as dangerous. This may require the dog's owner to use a shorter leash or place a muzzle on the animal when it is taken out in public. Authorities could also compel the owner to have the dog neutered or spayed. There are 83 dogs in Cook County currently that have been designated as dangerous. The most serious cases prompt the Animal Control Department to seek a court hearing to determine if the dog is vicious.

Dog owners may face civil litigation even when no action is taken against them by the Animal Control Department. The victims of dog attacks often suffer painful injuries that sometimes lead to a lifelong fear of the animals, and a personal injury attorney could file a lawsuit against the owner.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Pit bull attack leads to rare vicious dog court case", Gregory Pratt, June 06, 2014

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