Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 01CM37 Honorable Charles M. Feeney, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner
Released for publication.
In January 2001, the State charged defendant, Sheila Rae Shanklin, with four counts of cruel treatment of animals (510 ILCS 70/3.01 (West 2000)) and five counts of violation of an owner's duties (510 ILCS 70/3 (West 2000)) for her actions on or about December 27, 2000. That same month, the State charged her with an additional two counts of cruel treatment of animals (510 ILCS 70/3.01 (West 2000)) and two counts of violation of an owner's duties (510 ILCS 70/3 (West 2000)) for her actions on or about January 19, 2001, through January 21, 2001. In September 2001, defendant filed a motion to dismiss all charges. That same month, the trial court dismissed the nine charges that did not relate to dogs, finding section 16(c)(1) of the Humane Care for Animals Act (Animal Act) (510 ILCS 70/16(c)(1) (West 2000)) limited criminal sanctions under subsection (c) to violations involving dogs only. The State appeals, asserting the trial court erred in dismissing the charges. We reverse and remand.
Subsection 16(c) of the Animal Act (510 ILCS 70/16(c) (West 2000)) contains the only criminal sanctions for cruel treatment of animals and violation of an owner's duties. Thus, the question before us is whether section 16(c) of the Animal Act applies to violations involving animals other than dogs. Because the interpretation of a statute is a question of law, our review is de novo. People v. Maggette, 195 Ill. 2d 336, 348, 747 N.E.2d 339, 346 (2001).
In interpreting a statute, this court must ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. Such an inquiry appropriately begins with the language of the statute itself, since the language used by the legislature is the best indication of legislative intent. In analyzing the legislative language, we give the language its plain and ordinary meaning. Where a statute is ambiguous and the legislative intent cannot be ascertained from the plain and ordinary meaning of its language, this court is guided by the rules of statutory construction. People v. Bowden, 313 Ill. App. 3d 666, 668, 730 N.E.2d 138, 140 (2000). A statute is ambiguous when it can be reasonably interpreted in two different ways. People v. Holloway, 177 Ill. 2d 1, 8, 682 N.E.2d 59, 63 (1997).
Section 16 of the Animal Act provides, in pertinent part, the following:
"(c)(1) This subsection (c) applies exclusively where the only animals involved in the violation are dogs." 510 ILCS 70/16 (c)(1) (West 2000).
The trial court interpreted the aforementioned language as limiting the applicability of subsection (c) to dogs only and not to other animals. The State contends the language merely restricts punishment for violations involving only dogs to subsection (c). The language in question is unclear, and both interpretations are reasonable. Thus, we find the language is ambiguous.
When a statute is ambiguous, a court may look beyond the language employed and consider the purpose of the law, the evils that law was designed to remedy, and legislative history to discern legislative intent. In re B.C., 176 Ill. 2d 536, 542-43, 680 N.E.2d 1355, 1359 (1997). In doing so, a court should presume that the legislature did not intend an absurdity, inconvenience, or injustice. B.C., 176 Ill. 2d at 543, 680 N.E.2d at 1359.
Here, the legislature intended to penalize prohibited actions against all animals, not just dogs. The bill enacting the Animal Act was entitled: "[An Act] in relation to the humane care and treatment of animals and to provide penalties for violations thereof." (Emphasis added.) Pub. Act 78-905, eff. October 1, 1973 (1973 Ill. Laws 2852, 2852). The Animal Act defines "animal" as "every living creature, domestic or wild, but does not include man." 510 ILCS 70/2.01 (West 2000).
Further, an examination of section 16 of the Animal Act (510 ILCS 70/16 (West 2000)) shows an intent to criminally punish violations of the Animal Act against all animals protected by a particular section. Subsection (b) (510 ILCS 70/16(b)(1) (West 2000)), which does not "apply where the only animals involved in the violation are dogs," provides criminal sanctions for violations of section 4.01 of the Animal Act (510 ILCS 70/4.01 (West 2000)). In the case of dogs, violations of section 4.01 are criminally punished under subsections (c)(2) through (c)(5) (510 ILCS 70/16(c)(2) through (c)(5) (West 2000)). Thus, section 16 still provides criminal punishment for violations of section 4.01 regardless of the type of animal. Moreover, none of the other subsections of section 16 exclude an action against a protected animal from criminal punishment.
Additionally, reading subsection 16(c) to only apply to dogs generates absurd results, and we presume the legislature did not intend such results. B.C., 176 Ill. 2d at 543, 680 N.E.2d at 1359. Subsection 16(c) of the Animal Act contains the only criminal-punishment provisions for violating the following sections of the Animal Act: (1) cruel treatment of animals (510 ILCS 70/3.01 (West 2000)); (2) teasing, striking, or tampering with police animals (510 ILCS 70/4.03 (West 2000)); (3) injuring or killing police animals (510 ILCS 70/4.04 (West 2000)); (4) guide, hearing, and support dogs (510 ILCS 70/7.15 (West 2000)); and (5) the catchall provision, allowing criminal punishment for violating additional sections of the Animal Act, i.e., (a) an owner's duties (510 ILCS 70/3 (West 2000)), (b) section 4 prohibited acts (510 ILCS 70/4 (West 2000)), (c) transportation of animals (510 ILCS 70/7 (West 2000)), and (d) downed animals (510 ILCS 70/7.5 (West 2000)). 510 ILCS 70/16(c)(6) through (c)(9) (West 2000).
Section 4 of the Animal Act addresses actions against animals that are not dogs. 510 ILCS 70/4 (West 2000) (rabbit, chick, duckling, and fowl). Thus, if subsection (c) only applies to dogs, then violations of section 4 of the Animal Act could never be criminally punished because it addresses actions against noncanines. Moreover, besides sections 7.15 (510 ILCS 70/7.15 (West 2000) (guide, hearing, and support dogs)) and 4 of the Animal Act, all of the aforementioned sections address actions involving an "animal." Those sections do ...