Sep 13, 2015 Defining Provocation - A Chicago Bullmastiff Attack

Chicago - In 2013 NIKKI ZOLLAR’s 100 pound male bullmastiff escaped from its home and attacked Jib, a female 39 pound Portuguese water dog that was being walked on a leash in an alley.
File photo of a Bullmastiff
NIKKI ZOLLAR’s bullmastiff was declared dangerous and ZOLLAR appealed, contending that the bullmastiff was only playing, and that the attack didn’t occur until Jib’s owner kicked the bullmastiff in an effort to get it away from Jib which in turn provoked the bullmastiff to attack.

The “provocation” defense is used heavily by pit bull and dangerous dog owners in and out of court in Illinois and around the country as a defense and as an excuse for dangerous dog behavior.  These excuses are accepted depressingly often by people who should know better.

For example, in 2013 in Eldorado Illinois, before people with common sense prevailed upon these two men, the head of animal control and the city attorney stated that when a pit bull dug out of its enclosure, charged across the street and disemboweled a small puppy at the feet of a young boy, the pit bull was provoked because people hit the pit bull trying to get it to stop the attack and because the puppy was not on a leash.  They asserted the provoked pit bull could not therefore be labeled dangerous.  This judgment was reversed eventually.

Luckily, NIKKI ZOLLAR’s argument that her bullmastiff must have been provoked (she was not present at the attack, and was merely guessing) did not prevail for one simple reason.  The city of Chicago created a legal definition for the term “provocation” as it applies to exempting a dog from being labeled dangerous or vicious.

In the city of Chicago the only provocation that justifies a dog’s aggression are illegal actions by a person.  Legally, a dog’s actions against another dog cannot justify a dog’s aggression.

From the city ordinance:
‘“Provocation” means that the threat, injury or damage caused by the animal was sustained by a person who, at the time, was committing a willful trespass or other tort upon the premises occupied by the owner of the animal, or was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the animal, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.’

Clearly, a person who hits an attacking dog in an attempt to protect another animal from attack does not justify any aggression against that person or the other dog.

All cities and counties should establish similar narrow legal definitions for the term “provocation” as it applies to their dangerous dog ordinances.  Defense and protection against an attack should be clearly spelled out in the definition.

This gem of wisdom about pet aggression comes from the Peoria County Animal Services:
“Even if an attack can be explained (the pet was scared, the child stepped on the pet's tail, the pet is afraid of people in uniform), it can rarely be excused.”
Read more:
Cook County Record
A list of provocations meant to excuse pit bull attacks gathered by from news accounts
Self-styled dog attack expert describes how people fighting for their lives provoked a pit bull to kill

Related posts:
Jul 31, 2013 Eldorado city leaders refuse to protect neighborhood from vicious pit bull