Illinois Law Bans Felons From Owning Unspayed/Unneutered or Vicious Dogs

Illinois passed a law effective January 1, 2007 that bars certain felons from “knowingly own[ing], possess[ing], hav[ing] custody of, or resid[ing] in a residence with”, “unspayed or unneutered dog or puppy older than 12 weeks of age” or “any dog that has been determined to be a vicious dog” under the State’s new dangerous or vicious dog law. §720 ILCS 5/12-36

"Vicious dog" means a dog that, without justification, attacks a person and causes serious physical injury or death, or any dog that has been found to be a "dangerous dog" upon 3 separate occasions. §510 ILCS 5/2.19b

"Dangerous dog" describes a dog that is loose and “poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to a person or a companion animal”. A dangerous dog is also a dog that “without justification, bites a person and does not cause serious physical injury”. § 510 ILCS 5/2.05a.

The law applies for 10 years from the release from prison or jail to anyone convicted of felonies including cruelty to animals and drug crimes.

It certainly cannot hurt to ban these felons from owning unspayed/unneutered or vicious dogs. Dogs that are not spayed/neutered tend to be more aggressive. In fact, 91% of fatal dog attacks involve dogs that have not been spayed/neutered. Research cited in a 2000 Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association  study indicated unsterilized dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite.

Thus, the spay/neuter provisions, in particular, may have some effect on the ability of gangs and other criminals to fight dogs or at least breed or train them for fighting. Chicago police have reported a dramatic increase in dog fighting. Dog fighting is now a favored form of gambling by gangs.

The new law’s effectiveness will depend on enforcement against gangs and other dogfighters. The standard to be declared a “vicious dog” under Illinois law is high, though. It is unlikely a dog owned by a dogfighter or drug dealer will be declared dangerous 3 times. The risk of keeping such a dog would be too high. Nonetheless, the law may affect the ability of many to keep “mean” dogs as status symbols.

It is no secret that having a “mean” dog has become a status symbol with some young men. The hip hop culture has certainly promoted the image of a “mean” dog as desirable. Interestingly, a just released study suggests people with “vicious” or aggressive dogs tend to have engaged in some illegal activity. Moreover, those owners with vicious dogs who had been cited for failure to register or keep the dog confined on the premises are more than 9 times likely to have been convicted of a crime involving a child, 8 times more likely to have been convicted of drug crimes, and 3 times more likely to have been convicted of a domestic violence crime. These owners were compared with people with less aggressive dogs that have been licensed.

The study involved researchers from the University of Cincinnati and was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Illinois, at least, has started the process of trying to save dogs from the cruelty of felons intent on using them for fighting or symbols of a violent counterculture.

by Laura Allen for the Animal Law Coalition

7 thoughts on “Illinois Law Bans Felons From Owning Unspayed/Unneutered or Vicious Dogs”

  1. just to let him know i hope he rots in jail for what he did to those dogs so i hope you live in jail for ever and i know you are not sorry an what you did to those dogs you used for bait let me use you for bait then let me throw you in a dirt pile and let you die suffering and in pain so you rote in jail cause i really do not ever want to your ugly face on tv again because your stupid and an abuser to animals and every animal that sees you will hide in fear so you rot for the rest of your life cold and alone YOR FREKIN JERK I HATE YOUR GUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I cant beleive that law makers have nothing better to do. I am a convicted felon. When I was 17 I broke into a car! I do own 4 american pitbull terriers. So now I could lose my dogs and go to jail just because they’re pitbulls? My dogs arent mean and love people. I get so angry everytime I read stuff like this. Its already bad enough that I cannot vote, cannot own a fire arm, cannot protect my family if i need to, cannot get a decent job. now I cant own a dog????????? I think from now on they should just start taking all felons and shipping them to an island somewhere like they did with sick people a long time ago. It seems like nowadays if someone makes a mistake they are outcast from the real world and labled a bad person. Its 2008 now not 1808.

  3. Sadly, in our culture we like to say “give him a chance” but we don’t. Most people will say “you shouldn’t have done what you did to get arrested”, and they do have a point, but… I believe most people are in the camp of “not in my house” meaning the rules are fine, as long as they don’t apply to me. I suggest you take your feelings and focus them on lending a positive voice for those like you who are wrongly over-prosecuted for these things. Follow Dr. King’s message; “work with to make change within, work against to make enemies hate you more”

  4. I own 2 full-bred champion Vizsla hunting dogs. My dogs would NEVER bite or attack anyone for any reason, despite having testes. I would suggest you take breed, temperment, design and environment into consideration when “branding” dogs. I owned a Doberman Pinscher that was not neutered and never hurt anyone, ever. In fact when my home was burglarized, they took that dog too, proving he wasn’t even a threat to the people he was SUPPOSED to threaten. I do agree that a dog’s potential for harm should be considered, but it has been my experience at local dog parks that neutered dogs attack my dog, not the other way around. Even when walking my dog, I ignore labradors, poodles and other harmless dogs, but I don’t check for balls. I do avoid rottweilers, mastiffs, and Shepards, balls or not. Not because I assume they’re dangerous, but because they have a function that lends to a greater threat than a labrador. Come to think of it, why would we modify an animal from it’s birth state? We don’t even castrate child moleters and they have proven they can’t control the urge. In this vain we should castrate or chemically neuter all convicted felons, that should keep them calm.

  5. technically your dogs wouldn’t be taken away from you unless you didn’t get them fixed or they attacked someone.

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