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Are Pit Bulls Dangerous? Maryland Can’t Decide

Are Pit Bulls Dangerous? Maryland Can’t Decide

Last summer a ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals declared all pit bulls and pit bull mixes “inherently dangerous,” which caused quite a stir among their owners and animal advocates. It seemed the decision would be overturned, but now lawmakers can’t seem to agree on a compromise.

The original ruling was the result of an attack on 10-year-old Dominic Solesky in 2007, whose family sued the dog owners landlord, Dorothy M. Tracey in Tracey v. Solesky.

Before the ruling all dogs had to bite once before being declared dangerous and victims of an attack who wanted to file a lawsuit had to prove that the dog’s owner or landlord knew the dog had a history of being aggressive. Under the new ruling, anyone who wants to sue will only need to prove that owners and landlords knew the dog was a pit bull and they will be financially responsible for injuries.

Animal advocates and pit bull supporters opposed the ruling, worried about whether owners would have to face eviction or give up their dogs, while rescues and shelters worried about how to deal with a potential influx of pit bulls. The Humane Society of the United States believed the ruling would affect 70,000 dogs in the state.

Later the court partially reversed its ruling, removing pit bull mixes, but that still raised concerns about the potential for even more problems and confusion since there’s no such thing as a purebred pit bull. The term ‘pit bull’ can be applied to a number of breeds, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and they’re all easily misidentified.

In January, lawmakers reached a breed-neutral compromise that seemed fair and would hold all dog owners accountable for their dogs and give victims their day in court, while allowing owners the chance to defend themselves, and their dogs, in court and prove they had no history of aggression instead of being automatically held liable.

Now, the compromise is falling apart and pit bull parents are once again facing increased discrimination and the possibility of losing their homes or their dogs thanks to two legislators, Senator Brian E. Frosh and Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons, who can’t seem to agree on what should be done or whose fault it is the compromise fell apart.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Simmons charged Friday that an amendment added to the bill Thursday in the Senate committee altered the deal. He said the amendment – proposed by Sen. Robert A. Zirkin and adopted 7-4 -would expose hundreds of thousands of owners of other breeds of dog to substantially the same strict liability standard as the court applied to pit bulls.”

Frosh reportedly fought the amendment, but everything’s still up in the air leaving dog owners in limbo as landlords work on changing their policies to ban pit bulls.

Was the breed-neutral compromise fair? Should pit bull owners have to face strict liability? Should landlords, or any third party, ever be held liable for a dog bite?

 

Related Stories:

Maryland Declares Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous

Toronto Welcomes MLB Player, but Not His Pit Bull

Pit Bull Awarded for Saving Owner…Twice

 

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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151 comments

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3:33AM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

My son has a Pit Bull and she is a sweetheart.
Now, a friend of mine has a Chihuahua, and she scares me to death!

4:52AM PDT on Apr 27, 2013

thanks for sharing, I don't support breed specific legislation at all and think its how the owner brings the animal up :)

4:24PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Humans are more dangerous than Pitbulls or any other animal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5:01PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

IT is the damage the breed does with its teeth and all want to keep ,longs their face or nose does not get torn off or LEG! FACES AND ARMS do not GET replaced.

11:31AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Not every pit bull was bred to fight so there is nothing to "breed out". Staffordshire's (pit bull) had a longer history as farm dogs and family dogs than any history of fighting. BTW, in America the fighting dog of choice was the adorable and friendly Boston Bull dog.. a breed that no one has, or should, ban.
It's too bad that those who are so "pro" on breed bans know nothing of what they spout as "truth".

4:57PM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

I'm sorry but you cannot simply make generations of breeding specifically for bull baiting and dog fighting dissapear. Just as you can't magically breed out a hound dog's instinct to go into a full point or a collie dog's instinct to herd. These dog have a very high prey drive and if and when they do snap, they do extreme amounts of damage. They are not meant to have as pets.

4:28PM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

BSL is completely ineffective, not to mention cruel.

7:00AM PDT on Mar 23, 2013

I don't support breed specific legislation.

11:52PM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

Pit bulls are not dangerous, the people that raise them and train them to be aggressive are the dangerous ones.

3:21PM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

For the most part, bad dog owners and/or people acting badly around dogs are the real problem. If something bad happens, sensationalism, fear mongering in the media drives the rest. Those are the stories that get played 24/7 in the media loop. Bad owners need to be punished, not the animals that they have failed on every level! Our perspectives and laws need to change to reflect this!

There are great stories, heroic stories, and stories of sacrifice of pit bulls (and other breeds) all over the internet that are true! Those are the ones we ought to be focusing on and celebrating and running in the news! They are inspiring. Check them out! Such As:

ABC News: A Massachusetts pit bull named Lilly took on a freight train last week to save her owner, who collapsed unconscious onto the tracks during a late-night walk in Shirley.

Huffinton Post:
A 10-year-old pit bull named Baby rescued a family and its dogs not once, but twice, during a house fire.

Facebook: Poland, Pit ball saves life of three year old child...

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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