Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act

The Humane Care for Animals Act (the "Act") provides for criminal and civil penalties for people who neglect, abuse, or otherwise mistreat animals in Illinois.  The Act prohibits the cruel treatment and torture of animals.  It also requires that animals be given humane care and treatment, adequate shelter, and veterinary care when needed.  The Act defines "animals" to include every living creature, domestic or wild, in the state, but does not include man.  

Although the Act speaks in very broad terms, it tries to give some clarification.  The Act states that "nothing affects normal, good husbandry practices utilized by any person in the production of food, companion or work animals, or in the extermination of undesirable pests."  The Act also states that the Illinois Wildlife Code and the Humane Slaughter of Livestock Act shall trump in the event of a conflict.  So, theoretically,  mice and undesirable pests can still be exterminated, mosquitoes can still be swatted, hunters can still hunt, and chicken and hogs can still be slaughtered for food.  And normal, good livestock procedures on farms should not be affected.

The law is not entirely clear, however, because one person's undesirable pests may be another person's desirable pets.  And there is not always a clear line between good livestock procedures and poor ones, for instance.  Adding to the confusion is that law enforcement officials generally only investigate after receiving a complaint from a neighbor or passerby, who may have ulterior motives, and even then the police are rarely involved. Complaints about an animal's welfare are usually investigated by "approved humane investigators," not the police.

Approved humane investigators can be hired or authorized by the Department of Agriculture.  The investigators are usually animal control officers employed by the county or they are employees of non-profit organizations, such as the Humane Society.  Either way they're given the power to come onto private property to investigate.  They can write tickets and seize animals.  If needed, the investigators can seek the assistance of the police or state's attorney.  Violations of the Act can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies.

The Act also provides for civil lawsuits against people who commit cruelty to animals.  If my dog is maliciously killed or injured by another person, I can sue that person for damages, including damages for  emotional distress.  I have addressed both topics in more detail in separate posts below.

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