A family dog was euthanized by accident at an Illinois animal center. Now the couple that owned the dog is looking to sue the county, but are reportedly having trouble finding a lawyer to take their case.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Wangs Were Ordered to Take Their Dog to an Animal Control Center After He Bit Someone
Tony Wang and his wife Jennifer say their dog, Moses, bit a maintenance worker who showed up unannounced in their backyard. They were ordered to take Moses to Tazewell County Animal Control for observation. Jennifer said in an interview with CBS affiliate WMBD-TV in Peoria, Illinois, “They said that they would like to keep him for 10 days under quarantine to make sure that everything was safe with him.”
This is typical in Illinois. The law states that if an animal bites someone, the dog must be supervised at an animal control site “for at least 10 days so that it can be watched for signs of rabies.”
2. The Dog Was Euthanized by an Animal Control Worker Who Did Not Verify the Dog’s Identity
Tony Wang says he visited Moses in the days that followed during his lunch break. But a few days after they dropped off Moses, they got a devastating phone call from Tazewell County Animal Control. An employee had reportedly confused Moses with another dog. That worker apparently did not wait to verify that he had the correct dog in front of him. Instead, the employee chose to just go ahead and put Moses down.
Animal Control issued a statement to WMBD, acknowledging the mistake. It read in part:
“Tazewell County truly regrets this error. Tazewell County will be reviewing policies and procedures to prevent any such occurrence from happening in the future.”
Of course, that is little consolation to Tony and Jennifer Wang. They were looking to hire an attorney to seek justice for their dog. A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $9,000 to help the family with legal fees.
3. Under Illinois Law, There Are Multiple Steps Before a Dog Is Euthanized
Pet owners can be sued in both criminal or civil courts if their animal bites another person. According to Illinois law, a person is held liable when the animal is in their care, whether they actually own the animal or not. A bite victim only needs to prove that he or she did not provoke the dog and that the attack resulted in an injury in order to recover damages.
Dogs that bite someone are not supposed to be immediately put down. As referenced above in the case of the Wangs dog Moses, there is an initial 10-day waiting period to determine if the dog has rabies.
If state officials determines that a dog is “vicious,” the owner then has to pay a $100 fine and keep the dog locked up. If the dog is taken off the owner’s property, then the animal has to be muzzled. If a vicious dog gets away and is impounded, the owner has 15 business days to file an appeal to get the dog back. If no appeal is filed, only then will the dog be euthanized.
4. Illinois Has the Second-Highest Number of Dog Bite Claims in the Country, Behind California
When a dog bites someone, typically the victim receives compensation through the owner’s home insurance. In Illinois, this happens much more often than in other states. According to a study by the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Insurance, Illinois had the second-highest number of dog bite claims in the country in 2015. 931 people filed dog bite claims in 2015, behind only California.
According to a Chicago ordinance, an animal is labeled as “dangerous” if it:
• Bites, inflicts injury on, kills or otherwise attacks a human being or domestic animal without provocation on any public or private property
• Chases or approaches a human being in “an apparent attitude of attack” more than once, without provocation
• Has been trained for the purpose of fighting or serving as a guard dog
5. An Estimated 1.5 Million Animals Are Euthanized in the United States Each Year
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals works to keep shelter animals alive by encouraging adoption. The organization estimates that about 1.5 million animals are put down each year at shelters nationwide. That includes 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats.
The ASPCA estimates that 3.2 million dogs and cats are saved from these shelters every year via adoption. But the organization would like to see those numbers increase drastically. Nearly half of U.S. households have a pet. But only 23 percent of dogs and 31 percent of cats are adopted from animal shelters or humane societies. A majority of families that own dogs get them from breeders.