As the days get longer, and the air conditioning units start to continuously flip on, more people and their dogs will get outside to enjoy the sun. This article offers legal points to help make sure you and your canine friend are law abiding members of the community.
Dog Law 101
Your responsibilities as a pet owner:
- Under Illinois law, you are legally the owner of an animal if you have rights of property in an animal, keep or harbor an animal, have it in your car, act as the animal’s custodian, or permit the pet to remain on premises you occupy. (1)
- Your dog should be on a leash in public. Exact leash laws vary by city, but the same theme applies. The local ordinance in St. Charles requires that “Pet owners shall keep such animals exclusively on such owner’s premises, except that any such animal may be off the premises if restrained by a substantial leash, chain, or other appropriate instrument or physical device and under the direct supervision and immediate control of a competent person. (2)
- Poop scoop laws apply to the owner. The local St. Charles ordinance provides that no owner shall fail to remove excrement deposited by his pet upon the public ways or within the public places of the city or upon the premises of any person other than the owner’s without that person’s consent. (3) The first violation is $50.00.
- Dogs will be dogs, but “nuisance” laws do exist. In St. Charles, a dog may be found a nuisance if it engages in the following:
- Molesting persons or moving vehicles by chasing or barking or otherwise encumbering them;
- Attacking other animals that are being maintained in a lawful and otherwise proper way on the premises of their owner(s) or that are in the ordinance – prescribed control of their owners away from their home premises;
- Damaging property other than that of the owner;
- Barking, whining, howling or otherwise emitting loud noises excessively for an extended and uninterrupted period while on the property of the owner or within the confines of the owner’s residence or other enclosed building on the owner’s property;
- Creating noxious or offensive odors. (4)
- The city code also provides that any dwelling with three or more dogs is also a nuisance, and the owner is subject to enforcement provisions.
- Further, Illinois law provides that “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. (5)
Dogs in Springfield
Humane Care for Animals Act
What does the law allow you to do if you see a dog locked in a hot vehicle? A House Bill was passed in 2018 which allows immunity from criminal and civil liability if you forcibly enter another’s vehicle to rescue a dog. The bill provides immunity if the following elements are met:
- the vehicle is locked/there are no reasonable methods for the pet to exit the vehicle;
- the individual has good faith belief exists that forcible entry is necessary because the animal is imminent danger;
- the individual has already made a good faith effort to contact 9-1-1
- the individual takes good faith efforts to leave their contact information on the vehicle
- the individual resides with the dog until officials arrive at the vehicle
- the individual does not use more force than necessary
Illinois already has a “Good Samaritan Law” which grants certain immunity to individuals who provide care to another in need of urgent medical attention. The Bill (HB4191) seemingly recognizes the importance of also providing care for pets in need. If you see a dog in distress or believe it’s being neglected it’s appropriate to contact the police.
Dog responsibility has also been integrated into a dissolution of marriage proceeding pursuant to a January 2018 revision to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act. The statute provides that either party may petition, or request, the court for sole or joint possession and responsibility of the companion animal. The Court is to take into consideration the well-being of the animal. (6)
To date, the case law has yet to address how the Court is to evaluate the well-being of the animal is determined. But by analogy, one should consider how contested parental responsibility issues are addressed under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Prior to the new law, courts were not explicitly granted authority to consider the well-being of animals when determining who gets them, and thus, animals were allocated as if they were ordinary personal property (re: chairs, bedroom furniture, etc.). The Illinois legislature acted to solve this problem.
Now if a judge determines that a companion pet is marital property, he or she can allocate responsibility and possession of the pet on a permanent basis. This means that the judge has discretion to grant ownership and responsibility to either party or jointly, and in doing so the Court is to explicitly consider the well-being of the pet. The statute also permits the Court the authority to allocate temporary responsibility and possession of the pet during the divorce proceeding if it first finds that the animal is jointly owned by the parties. The amended law distinguishes between “jointly owned” and “marital property.”
The definition of “owner” can be found in the Illinois Animal Control Act, which defines an 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 a custodian.” At least one Illinois case determined that the wife should be considered the “owner” of the dogs since they remained with the wife when the husband moved out. So, one could argue that if a spouse moves out prior to finalizing the divorce and leaves the animal with the other spouse, he/she is no longer the joint owner. Thus, the Court would not have the authority to allocate temporary ownership and responsibility but may allocate permanent ownership and responsibility of a marital animal at the conclusion of the case.
That being said, if a dog isn’t marital property (e.g. purchased by one of the spouses prior to the marriage or gifted to that spouse at any time) it goes with the non-marital owner at the end of the case, unless there’s an agreement to the contrary.
Kane County is Dog-Friendly
Kane County has much to offer our canine companions:
If you are at the Kane County Judicial Center, be sure to say hi to Forrest. Forrest is the county’s support dog. He is available to provide support and help reduce people’s anxiety while at court.
- Bark Park in Batavia
- East Side Sports Complex in St. Charles
- James O. Breen Community Park in St. Charles
- Fox River Bluff Dog Park in South Elgin
- Headwaters Conservation Area in Elburn
Dog Walkers/Pet Sitters:
- Safe Haven Advocate in Home Pet Care
- Miles for Mutts
- Rivers Edge in Batavia (they also have a dog food menu)
- El Sazon
- Main Street Pub
- and a selection in the Geneva Commons
- Wet Nose
- Healthy Pets
- Bruce & Willy’s Natural Pet Store
- Tiny n’ Tall
- Anderson Animal Shelter
- Midwest Labrador Retriever Rescue
- A Little R&R
- Good As Gold
Please keep the above information in mind as the weather heats up. Hopefully, you will enjoy many warm, dog days of summer.