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Victory! Maryland Overturns Dangerous Pit Bull Rule

Victory! Maryland Overturns Dangerous Pit Bull Rule

After two years of debating who’s liable when a dog attacks, Maryland’s lawmakers have finally reached a compromise that will overturn a high court ruling that declared all pit bulls are “inherently dangerous.”

The controversy started when the family of a 10-year-old who was attacked in 2007 sued the dog owner’s landlord in Tracey v. Solesky. The case led to the Maryland Court of Appeals declaring all pit bulls and pit bull mixes inherently dangerous.

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 aggression.

As a result of the ruling, anyone who wanted to sue only needed to prove that owners and landlords knew the dog was a pit bull and they would be financially responsible for injuries.

The ruling left pit bull advocates and owners concerned about the consequences for good reason. Owners worried about having to choose between getting evicted or giving up their dog, in addition to worrying about whether they would be able to find a place to live in the future. Rescues and shelters feared they would be flooded with dogs they wouldn’t be able to adopt out, which they were, while many others continued to raise concerns about the problems with trying to identify a breed based solely on looks.

Legislators attempted to fix the problem shortly after the ruling, but had been unable to agree on issues surrounding liability and reach a compromise until now.

This week they gave pit bull advocates a reason to celebrate by passing breed-neutral legislation that will undo the court’s ruling. The bills, SB 247 and HB 73, will hold all dog owners liable for their dogs, regardless of their breed, and will give them the chance to defend their dogs in court in the event that they do injure someone. They also remove strict liability from landlords and other third parties.

Owners could also avoid liability if bite victims were trespassing on their property, committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against someone, or provoking the attack by teasing or tormenting the dog in question.

Those who support breed specific legislation, or breed discriminatory legislation, undoubtedly want to keep communities safe, but targeting specific breeds or dogs based on how they look, without considering their actual disposition, is not an effective approach when it comes to reducing bites.

Fortunately, instead of punishing innocent dogs and tearing families apart, lawmakers are continuing to acknowledge the fact that any dog can bite and are acting in the best interest of their communities by encouraging responsible dog ownership and holding all owners equally accountable.

Maryland’s move follows two other huge victories with one in South Dakota, which passed a law against breed discrimination at the end of March, and another in Utah this week with Governor Gary Hebert’s signing of a bill that will stop local governments from passing breed specific laws and overturn existing ones.

Missouri, Vermont and Washington are also considering similar legislation.

Because HB 73 was filed as an emergency bill in Maryland, it will go into effect immediately so all pit bulls need now is a signature from Governor Martin O’Malley, who is reportedly expected to sign it.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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7:37PM PDT on Jun 29, 2014

Hurray! And thanks Jerry H for the link to the petition against the pit bull ban in Ontario. I signed and shared. Imagine......you could have your dog taken and killed just by driving through Ontario if he/she looks sort of like a pit bull......

9:56AM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

Let´s discrimate rapers and poachers!! Animals are not evil, people make them like that!!

8:17PM PDT on Apr 21, 2014

Finally, something that makes sense.

5:45PM PDT on Apr 15, 2014

good news to see discrimination end!!!

5:58AM PDT on Apr 13, 2014

THX Maryland for showing some sense and hopefully leading the way to stop breed discrimination. Pits are very loveable

12:02PM PDT on Apr 10, 2014

How about just use common sense. Pit bulls are no different than any other breed, there are pit bulls that are therapy dogs. It is humans who need education on animals behavior; on the other hand, owners of pets should be responsible like parents should be responsible when their children act up. Putting labels on breed, species and/or culture are biased and inaccurate, there are good and bad mixed in all beings, it always take both sides of understanding and tolerance to promote peace and love or there will be no end of suing and who ends up getting the most $$$ - lawyers!! I hope people learn from this article and be more educated and acted more like a true human instead of pointing fingers and go to court for endless stress.

7:51PM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Thank you, Maryland! Good the people and good for the Pitt Bulls and every other dog breed.

I honor of my friend Karen to the North in Ontario, Canada, and in memory of her beloved Puppins and Chase - I would like to ask anyone who reads this, to look at the following petition on Care2, to support banning Breed Selective Laws against Pitt Bulls in the Province of Ontario. Here is the link and thank you for Karen, Puppins and Chase. Here we go:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/594/560/639/end-the-ban-of-pitbulls-in-ontario/

Thanks,
Jerry

10:36AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Ah, some sane rulings from a court. With what's coming out of the Supreme Court we need some sanity somewhere.
I'm glad for the pit bulls and their owners. And I'm also glad that people have a chance to fight for their dogs from idiots who are too stupid around dogs. I've known people who had to have their dogs put down because someone did something stupid to the dog and were bit. Why punish the dog for doing what dogs do. They should have slapped the bitee upside the head for being stupid. And sometimes its the owners fault. It's an incredible injustice that animals have to suffer for human stupidity.

2:37AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Yay. Thank you.

1:32AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

GREAT News for Pit Bulls and their humans ! I LOVE the Bully Breeds! Having 3 myself,I can honestly say: I feel SAFE and have NEVER been afraid of being bitten ! My dogs and Every Pit Bull I have ever come across has Never been Mean or Aggressive! This was all just HYPE ! I'm afraid of Small dogs,because I was Bitten by one as a child! Give me a BIG LOVABLE Bully any day ! :) YIPPY !! :)

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