Reed Armstrong Partner Secures Dismissal of Animal Control Act Count with Prejudice

Weiss v. Campbell, 2015 WL 8530512, Case No. 15-cv-542-JPG-DGW (S.D. Ill. December 11, 2015).

William B. StarnesThe Plaintiff alleged injuries caused when her car collided with a horse that had come onto the roadway and subsequently lay down in the road. She alleged several counts, including one count under the Animals Running at Large Act and one count under the Animal Control Act. Pursuant to the defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss filed by Reed Armstrong partner William B. Starnes II, the court dismissed the count under the Animal Control Act with prejudice.

The court observed that the Animal Control Act pertains to attacks perpetrated by dogs or other animals on persons who are lawfully within a given area, while the Animals Running at Large Act pertains to livestock which are not properly contained by their owners and wander about. In reviewing the relevant decisions in Illinois, the court noted several Illinois appellate cases that examined the interplay between the two Acts. It was clear from the within-cited McQueen, Zears, and Abadie decisions that, when the Animals Running at Large Act applies, the Animal Control Act does not apply. This is so because the Animal Control Act, which was enacted after the Animals Running at Large Act, did not alter the application of the Running at Large Act; rather, it simply eliminated the common law requirement that an owner know of an animal’s dangerous propensity. Therefore, as the McQueen court observed, the Animal Control Act is inapplicable when a domestic animal is simply running at large, as the Animals Running at Large Act still applies. According to the Zears court, the Animals Running at Large Act can be considered an exception to the Animal Control Act, even if the Animal Control Act’s statutory requirements are technically satisfied, when the damage is caused because an animal was simply wandering around. Because the federal court determined that the Illinois appellate decisions were correct, and because there was no indication that the Illinois supreme court would rule differently, the Defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion was granted.