Illinois is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites. What this means is that Illinois dog bite law generally holds the dog owner responsible for the damages resulting from dog bites regardless of whether the dog has bitten before or has ever shown violent tendencies.
Only in limited situations would a dog owner not be liable for a dog bite. This includes situations like self-defense or where the dog bite victim is trespassing or trying to commit a crime on your property. So, if a thief breaks into your home to commit burglary, and your dog bites him, you would probably not be liable for the dog bite.
Beyond civil liability, once a dog threatens to bite or bites someone, it may be characterized as either a “dangerous” or “vicious” dog. There are different requirements for dogs characterized as such.
A dangerous dog means a dog that poses a serious harm to others or has bitten someone but not caused serious injury. If deemed dangerous, the dog owner has to pay a $50 public safety fine, spay or neuter the dog, microchip the dog, and have the dog evaluated by a behaviorist and complete training or treatment as deemed appropriate. In addition, dangerous dogs must be leashed when out in public, may be required to be muzzled, and must be under the direct supervision of an adult.
A vicious dog means a dog that has attacked another before and caused serious injury. If a dog is found to be a vicious dog, the owner must pay a $100 public safety fine, spay or neuter the dog, microchip the dog, and subject the dog to enclosure (i.e.; confinement). A judge may also order that a vicious dog be euthanized. A vicious dog may only be released from enclosure to see a vet, during emergencies, and other limited situations.
Illinois dog bite law is strict. Not only is the owner liable for dog bites, but the owner will also have to comply with specific rules once a dog is deemed dangerous or vicious.