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What is the difference between a dangerous dog and a vicious dog in Illinois?

Illinois statute 510 is the Animal Control Act. This act defines the terms “dangerous dog” and “vicious dog” and outlines the laws that affect these dogs and their owners.

A "dangerous dog" is a dog that shows tendencies that may cause the dog to bite in the future. A dangerous dog is defined as:

  • A dog who behaved in a way that would be as threatening while off its owner’s property and unmuzzled, unleashed, or otherwise unattended by its owner; or
  • A dog that has bitten without justification and has caused minor physical injury.

A dog that growls and barks when you knock on the door is not dangerous because it is on its owner’s property. A dog that jumps on your child and knocks her down while she is on the sidewalk may be dangerous. Any dog that bites but does not draw blood can be considered dangerous under Illinois law.

Once a dog has caused a serious physical injury, it becomes a “vicious dog.” For a dog to be declared a vicious dog, one of the following must be true:

  • The dog attacked a person without justification and caused serious physical injury or death.
  • The dog was found to be a "dangerous dog" on three separate occasions

A dog that attacks someone who is breaking into a home or causing the dog harm is not vicious, because the dog was provoked.

Although these laws are designed to protect the public, it isn’t easy to have a dog declared vicious or dangerous. Illinois law protects dog owners by giving dog owners a chance to prove that the dog’s behavior was provoked and the dog’s actions were justified.

If you have been bitten by a dog in Illinois, the “vicious dog” hearing may effect your case. Contact a Rockford dog bite attorney to learn how you can protect your rights and make sure that the dog doesn’t attack again. To schedule a free consultation, contact Hupy and Abraham at 800-390-6350.


Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham