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Liability For Dog Bites

If you agree to take care of someone else's dog, you may give up any claim you have against the dog's owner if the dog injures you. By assuming control and care of the dog as a dog sitter or a dog walker, you give up the protection granted by the Illinois Animal Control Act because you are considered the dog's owner under the statute.

Before the Animal Control Act was passed, the law followed a "one bite rule," which required a person who was injured by a dog bite to prove that the dog's owner knew or should have known that the dog had a tendency to injure people. In effect, the old rule made a dog owner liable only the second time that the dog bit someone, and thereafter.

The Animal Control Act was passed to give broader protection to the public and to provide an incentive to a dog owner to maintain control over his pet. Under the Act, you can be liable if your dog (or another animal, such as a ferret), without provocation, attacks or injures a person who is conducting himself peaceably in a place where he may lawfully be. The Act imposes such liability not only upon the actual dog owner, but also upon a person who keeps or harbors the dog, a person who has the dog in his care, a person who acts as the dog's custodian, or a person who permits the dog to remain on his premises.

One Illinois court found that a 10 year old boy who agreed to take care of his neighbor's dog for five days placed himself in a position of control over the animal. While the dog was in the boy's care, they collided, causing injuries to the boy. Because the child had assumed responsibility for the dog, he was acting as the dog's legal owner and therefore had no right to recover damages from the dog's actual owner for his injuries.

It does not matter how long you assume care and control over someone else's dog, or even whether you care for the dog as a favor or for payment. An Illinois court denied recovery to an employee who was injured while walking her boss's dogs one day as a favor. Because the dogs were in her custody and control at the time that she was injured, the court considered her to be the dogs' owner and did not allow her to pursue her lawsuit against her employer.

The moral of the story is, if you agree to watch someone else's dog, make sure you are able to keep the dog under control for the protection of others and yourself.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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