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Vet Unlikely to Recover Civilly For Injuries Inflicted By Pit Bull

Vets Can Not Recover with Pit Bull BitesEvery year, there are over 800,000 dog bites that occur in the U.S. About 67 percent of all fatal dog attacks involve the pit bull breed. Many children and adults receive serious bites to the face, arms and legs when they are involved in pit bull attacks. Even the most seemingly domesticated pit bulls can sporadically lash out at children and adults.

A recent Illinois case exemplifies the dangers posed by pit bulls. In this case, two vet technicians at the Veterinary Clinic of Tinley Park suffered from serious injuries after treating a pit bull brought in by a rescuer. One vet tech suffered from a bite to the face while the other vet tech suffered from bites on both arms. The pit bull rescuer brought the dog to the vet clinic so that he could have sutures removed and also be treated for a potential infection.The case has raised issues of whether the pit bull rescuer may be liable for the injuries inflicted under the Illinois Animal Control Act. The Act imposes liability on owners of animals who cause injuries to people who are assembling themselves in a location where they have a right to be. In the case of the two vet technicians, it appears that they had a right to be in their place of employment and to peaceably assemble in this location.

The Illinois Animal Control Act (ACA)

After the bites occurred, the pit bull was taken into an animal hospital. The dog’s owner received a fine of $250, and the rescuer was also ticketed. Because the dog had not been generally violent in the past, the administrative officer did not enforce the maximum penalty of $750. The dog’s owners have requested that the dog be returned to them. The foster owner of the dog posted a petition on Change.org requested that the authorities allow the dog to be returned.

The question raises questions of whether the two injured victims could sue the owner of the vet clinic for their injuries. Under the ACA, an “owner” is considered anyone who keeps or harbors an animal in his or her care. One who acts as the custodian o or knowingly permits a dog to remain on one’s premises may also be considered an “owner” who could potentially be liable under the ACA.

One of the ways in which a veterinarian can escape liability is by contacting the registered owner of a microchipped animal in “good faith.” A vet owner can still be liable for civil damages due to willful and wanton misconduct.

An owner of a dangerous dog, such as a pit bull, may also be subject to criminal liability if he or she knowingly allows the dog to run or fails to provide an enclosure around the dog. If an owner knowingly allows a dog to run at large, he or she is guilty of a Class 3 felony. An owner who fails to provide an enclosure around a dog is guilty of a Class 2 felony.

Liability Under the ACA

Here, the two injured victims may have legal recourse against multiple parties for “harboring” the dangerous pit bull. The vet owner could technically be liable under the ACA for keeping the pit bull within its care and negligently allowing vet technicians to handle this dangerous dog. The facts do not indicate whether the dog was kept within an enclosure to prevent attacks. The two injured victims may be able to sue the vet owner for the full amount of their injuries. Under Section 16 of the ACA, the owner of an animal who attacks another, without provocation, is liable for the full amount of civil damages caused by the injury.

The two victims may also argue that the rescuer or the foster owner were the “owners” of the pit bull for the purposes of the ACA. These individuals appeared to have knowingly cared for the dog and may be subject to civil liability as a result. (learn more about dog bites in Illinois here)

Contact an Illinois Dog Bite Lawyer for Assistance

If you have been bitten by a pit bull or other dangerous dog, you may have legal recourse against multiple parties. An Illinois dog bite lawyer can assess your legal claim and determine the appropriate parties to sue.

Sources:

  • http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1704&ChapterID=41
  • http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-07/news/ct-tinley-park-pitbull-hearing-tl-s-0410-20140404_1_pit-bull-owner-dog-attack-buddy
  • http://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities-2010.php
  • http://www.dogsbite.org/dangerous-dogs-pit-bull-myths.php