A friend drops by for a visit, and when she cannot get an answer at the front door, she heads to the back. What she does not know is the family Labrador retriever has been soaking up the sun on the deck, and she startles him. Illinois dog owners understand startled dogs sometimes attack the people who surprise them, so it would not be shocking to find out the retriever bit the friend who unintentionally snuck up on him.
The Illinois State Bar Association reported that, in 2016, State Farm Insurance paid out more in "dog-related claims" in the state of Illinois than in any other state except California. The ISBA says part of the cause is the Animal Control Act, which does not ever allow owners to get by without paying for someone's dog-bite injuries.
Some places give dog owners a one-bite pass in responsibility. In other words, if their dog has never bitten anyone before, they do not have to foot the bill for the first time it happens. Illinois says owners are responsible the first time and every time after that.
What should a dog owner do to be sure he or she is not covering medical expenses for a bite the dog should never have taken? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals gives some tips to pet parents:
- Treat the dog like family
- Pay attention to behavioral triggers and manage them well
- Neuter or spay the pet
- Give him or her a chance to socialize with other animals and with people
The ASPCA also recommends pet owners get professional help the first time they see any aggressive actions rather than waiting for their pet to bite someone. Also, always supervise the dog when he or she is around children.