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Law School Case Brief

Thompson v. Dawson - 136 Ill. App. 3d 695, 91 Ill. Dec. 586, 483 N.E.2d 1072 (1985)


The term "owner" is defined in section 2.16 of the Animal Control Act, Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 8, para. 352.16 (1983), which states that "owner" means any person having a right of property in a dog or other animal, or who keeps or harbors a dog or other animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian, or who knowingly permits a dog or other domestic animal to remain on or about any premise occupied by him.


A black Labrador dog ran in front of the motorcycle upon which plaintiffs were riding. Due to the incident, plaintiffs obtained injuries. Consequently, in order to recover for injuries they sustained, they sued defendants James Stubblefield and Dave Dawson, the alleged owner and keeper of the dog, respectively. On trial, defendants testified that the dog was a stray that were being occasionally fed by them. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants, after concluding that the evidence did not establish that either defendant met the statutory definition of “owner.” Plaintiffs challenged the trial court’s decision.


Can the defendants be considered as “owners” of the dog in question, thereby, making them liable to the injuries sustained by the plaintiffs?




The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court. According to the evidence, the dog was a stray dog. The Court held that the evidence showed that the dog harborers did not exercise the requisite degree of custody and control over the dog so as to have brought them within the definition of owner under the Animal Control Act. The Court determined that the trial court's findings of fact should not have been set aside because they were not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

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