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City of Rolling Meadows v. Kyle

OPINION FILED JUNE 4, 1986.

THE CITY OF ROLLING MEADOWS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

AUDREY KYLE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert F. Nix, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE RIZZI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, city of Rolling Meadows, brought an action against defendant, Audrey Kyle, for keeping an undomesticated animal, a monkey, in her home in violation of a city ordinance. Following an evidentiary hearing, the court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff. Defendant subsequently filed a motion to vacate the judgment and a motion for a new trial. The trial court denied both motions. Defendant appeals. We reverse.

The monkey in question here, Yondi, has resided with defendant and her husband since she was two days old. At the time this suit was commenced, Yondi and the Kyles had been living in Rolling Meadows for the preceding seven years. The citation issued by the city of Rolling Meadows charged defendant with violating a municipal ordinance which provides:

"Keeping animals other than domesticated pets.

No person, firm or corporation shall own or keep within the city any bees, goats, sheep, hogs, cattle, fowl, reptile or serpent, spider, or other animal normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature, other than domesticated house pets, and each day such animal is kept in violation of this Section shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. The word "fowl" shall include chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks. It is no defense to a violation of this Section that the owner or keeper of any animal or reptile which is prohibited in this Section has attempted to domesticate such animal or reptile." Rolling Meadows Ordinance section 4-28 (1981).

Defendant and her husband testified extensively regarding the domesticity of Yondi and the commonly understood meaning of the words "domesticated house pets." The city presented no evidence indicating its definition of "domesticated house pets." The court found defendant to be in violation of Ordinance 4-28 for keeping Yondi as a pet. Subsequently, an order of supervision was entered by the court allowing defendant time to remove Yondi from the city limits and in so doing exonerate herself of the ordinance violation.

Defendant filed a motion for a new trial. Following a hearing, the motion was denied. The court rendered a written opinion regarding its interpretation of Ordinance 4-28. The court essentially determined that (1) a monkey is an animal normally wild and incapable of being domesticated or defined as a domesticated house pet, (2) the phrase "other than domesticated house pets" refers to cats and dogs, and (3) taken as a whole, Ordinance 4-28 bars the keeping of monkeys within the city limits.

At issue here is the construction and application to be given the phrase "other than domesticated house pets" as set forth in Ordinance 4-28. Defendant contends that contrary to the trial court's ruling, proper statutory construction of Ordinance 4-28 requires that (1) the phrase "other than domesticated house pets" be construed to modify the preceding phrase "or other animal normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature" in order to allow even cats or dogs to be kept as pets within the city, and (2) the phrase "domesticated house pets" be defined according to its commonly understood meaning. Defendant further contends that it is a question of fact in each case whether or not an animal normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature has been domesticated within the meaning of the ordinance.

• 1, 2 We first address defendant's argument that proper statutory construction of Ordinance 4-28 requires a finding that the phrase "other than domesticated house pets" modifies the preceding phrase "or other animal normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature." The fundamental role of a court in constructing a statute is to ascertain the intent of the legislature and effectuate it accordingly. To determine legislative intent, the court will examine the entire statute and attempt to identify both the statutory objective and the problem sought to be eliminated. (City of Springfield v. Board of Election Commissioners (1985), 105 Ill.2d 336, 341, 473 N.E.2d 1313, 1315.) The court must also choose a construction which gives the statute a clear and logical meaning rather than a meaning which renders it illogical, useless, or unreasonable. (People v. Raseaitis (1984), 126 Ill. App.3d 600, 604, 467 N.E.2d 1098, 1102, citing Havlik v. Marcin (1971), 132 Ill. App.2d 532, 270 N.E.2d 189; 2A A. Sutherland, Statutory Construction sec. 45.12 (4th ed. Rev. 1984).) Neither defendant nor the city disagrees with these general principles of law and their applicability to Ordinance 4-28.

• 3 The parties further agree with the basic rule of statutory construction that relative or qualifying words, phrases or clauses are to be applied to the words or phrases immediately preceding and are not to extend to or include other words, phrases or clauses more remote unless after examining the entire statute it appears that such an extension is required. (City of Mount Carmel v. Partee (1979), 74 Ill.2d 371, 375, 385 N.E.2d 687, 688-89; People v. Thomas (1970), 45 Ill.2d 68, 72, 256 N.E.2d 794, 796.) However, the parties dispute the appropriate application of this general principle to the phrases "other than domesticated house pets" and "or other animal normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature." Defendant argues that the latter phrase modifies the former. The city contends that the latter phrase is not a modifying phrase.

• 4 We believe that the drafters of Ordinance 4-28 intended the phrase "other than domesticated house pets" to modify the entire preceding phrase "or other animal normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature." Were we to follow the city's argument that "domestic house pets" modifies nothing and refers only to dogs and cats, Ordinance 4-28 would prohibit residents from keeping all other animals normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature, including such commonly kept house pets as birds, gerbils, hamsters, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, tropical fish and turtles.

Furthermore, adoption of the city's interpretation of Ordinance 4-28 would ban any pet store located within the city of Rolling Meadows from selling any animals other than cats and dogs. We do not believe that the drafters of Ordinance 4-28 intended the Ordinance to be construed in such a restrictive manner, since such a construction would be neither logical, useful nor reasonable. See People v. Raseaitis (1984), 126 Ill. App.3d 600, 604, 467 N.E.2d 1098, 1102, citing People v. Havlik (1971), 132 Ill. App.2d 532, 270 N.E.2d 189; 2A A. Sutherland, Statutory Construction sec. 45.12 (4th ed. Rev. 1984).

Having determined that the phrase "other than domesticated house pets" modifies the phrase "or other animal normally wild, dangerous to human life or carnivorous in nature," we must next consider defendant's argument that the phrase "domesticated house pets" should be defined according to its commonly understood meaning.

• 5 Here, the word domesticated, as referring to house pet, has not been defined by the drafters. When a term of a statute is not defined by the legislature, courts are to presume that the term was intended to have its ordinary and popularly understood meaning absent legislative intent to the contrary. (See Herbert v. Board of Fire & Police Commissioners (1981), 97 Ill. App.3d 1138, 1139, 423 N.E.2d 1298, 1300; see also People v. Hicks (1984), 101 Ill.2d 366, 371, 462 N.E.2d 473, 475.) The legislature is presumed not to intend unjust, absurd or unreasonable consequences. (See Herbert v. Board of Fire & Police Commissioners (1981), 97 Ill. App.3d 1138, 1141, 423 N.E.2d 1298, 1301.) Ordinance 4-28 lacks a legislative history to aid us in our interpretation of the meaning of the term domesticated, and the record shows that the city presented no evidence ...


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