What’s the New “Reckless Dog Owner” Law in Illinois?

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illinois reckless dog law

In 2018, the State of Illinois Senate approved a bill that punishes dog owners who fail to keep their dogs from causing harm to other people. The approved bill goes into effect this month.

The bill itself was born out of tragedy. In 2017, a Yorkshire Terrier named Buddy was killed when two neighbor dogs got out and attacked him. Buddy later died from his wounds at an animal hospital. The owners were obviously devastated and got in contact with their local senator to help them seek justice.

The main reason they felt that legislation was necessary was twofold. First, they discovered that the dogs that attacked Buddy were known to be aggressive. They got out due to their owner’s lack of foresight and attention, and unfortunately, it had a devastating result. Second, the owners didn’t feel that they got enough support from local law enforcement and the existing legislation. While they were offered sympathy for the loss of their dog, there was little else that the police and animal control were able to do.

The Justice for Buddy Act, or Senate Bill 2386, classifies dog owners who don’t take proper care of their pets as “reckless” and penalizes them as such. Through the bill, dog owners are reckless if their dogs kill another dog, or are found running at large within 12 months of being deemed dangerous. For a dog to be deemed dangerous, they would have to bite someone without jurisdiction or be found off-leash and behaving in a threatening manner.

What Does This Bill Mean for Illinois Dog Owners?

The consequences of this bill involve the dog owner giving up their dogs to a local dog shelter, rescue, or sanctuary, where the organizations will determine whether the dog is safe to be adopted. On top of this, reckless dog owners will be prohibited from owning any dogs for three years.

The goal with this legislation is to attempt to encourage dog owners to be more vigilant with their pets and ensure that there’s no way for them to escape or get loose. The hope is that this will decrease the number of dogs that are killed and keep communities safer.

However, on the other side of this legislation are concerned dog owners who are worried that the terms surrounding this bill are too vague. The rules around what determines a dog to be dangerous or off-leash makes some dog owners wonder if it’s safe for their dog to run off-leash at the dog park. “Dangerous” is subjective, and some worry that their dogs could be at risk whether they’ve had any history of aggressive behavior.

Either way, the bill has officially gone into effect in 2019, and Illinois dog owners will have to be especially vigilant to ensure their dogs aren’t posing any threats or have the opportunity to run loose.

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