Maryland Backs off Pit Bull Ruling, But Not Enough

The Maryland Court of Appeals has partially reversed a ruling it made this spring that declared pit bulls and pit mixes “inherently dangerous” and imposed strict liability on owners and landlords.

However, the reversal only removes pit bull mixes and leaves the rest intact, even though the term “pit bull” was never defined by the court.

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. Now, 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.

The decision to remove mixed breeds was made because judges lacked evidence to hold them to the same standards as purebreds, leaving the new ruling to apply to dogs referred to as “pit bulls” or “pit bull terriers.” Now, animal advocates are raising 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, (APBT), American Staffordshire Terrier (AMSTAFF) and Staffordshire Bull Terrier (STAFFY), and they’re easily misidentified (try it).

“There is no way to visually identify a dog as a pit bull and there’s no way to even prove it using DNA,” said Cory Smith, a senior director with the Humane Society of the United States. “Even veterinarians … have a hard time identifying a dog as a pit bull.”

Now, owners of mixed breeds and their dogs may be a little safer and able to avoid strict liability, but others are still worried about losing their dogs and their homes and whether they’ll be able to find anywhere to live, as if it’s not hard enough to find landlords who allow dogs in the first place, while shelter rescues worry about more dogs being unjustifiably euthanized. The owner of at least one apartment complex, ArmisteadGardens, has already ordered that pit bulls be removed.

The HSUS, which believes the original ruling would have been applied to an estimated 70,000 dogs in the state, has put together some helpful information for Maryland residents here, and is advising owners to get veterinary or licensing documentation proving their dog’s lineage.

Two bills were introduced this month during a special session to deal with the issue: a Senate bill that would have imposed strict liability on all dog owners and a House bill that would have applied strict liability in situations where dogs were running loose, but they both died.

The issue will be addressed at the next legislative session in January.


Please sign the petition asking Governor Martin O’Malley to introduce legislation to completely overturn this decision.

Related Stories:

Massachusetts Bans BSL, Overhauls Animal Protection Laws

Pit Bulls Declared “Inherently Dangerous” in Maryland

In Memory of Lennox, Dog Put to Death for Resembling a Pit Bull

Photo credit: sparktography


Nanci B.
Nanci B5 years ago

The Maryland Court of appeals is “inherently stupid" when they lump all pit type dogs as having one temperament. Common sense should be the law of the land, not the latest "hate fad" fed by ignorant people and the media.

Sheri D.
Sheri D5 years ago

petition signed.

Dianne D.
Dianne D5 years ago

Petition signed. Should not punish the breed. Pass a law that anyone who has this breed or a mix of the breed register their dogs and have a data base with pictures of the dog. Anyone not registering their dogs, will be heavily fined and have jail time. This might help with who is breeding these dogs to fight, especially if caught and fined thousands of dollars. Those that love the breed will gladly register their dogs. Those that don't love the breed but is using them won't and they are the ones we want to catch.

Desire Oosthuizen

Not all pitbulls are the same, it depends on how it grew up. If it grows up in a calm environment, it will be a sweet dog. It is just the same as saying all dogs are the same and all cats are the same. People are stupid. Why do people have the need to play GOD to those who cannot question them?

Carrie Anne Brown

already signed, thanks for sharing :)

Patricia M.
Patricia M5 years ago

Anyone who was truly versed in any "pitbull" type as theri is no such a breed, would understand completely that any bully dogs, including Staffies, Amstaffs, APBTs, bulldogs of various breeds, et al, are not in anyway vicious or dangerous, PERIOD!!! This is the sensationalism of media causing this and control freaks in government running with it and making it their soapbox to KILL these dogs, one and all. WRONG, DAMN WRONG for this to occur for these dogs love people, love kids (possibly a little too strong around kids unless supervised and most parents too lax in such demands on their parenting), are very loyal, hardly bark, worse watchdogs in the world, and are bedhogs who love cuddling with their human families... MORE NEEDS TO BE COMMITTED BY ORDINARY FOLKS TO STOP THIS PLAGUE OF VENGENCE ON BULLY DOGS WHO ARE NOT GUILTY OF ANYTHING; THIS IS A COUNTRY WHO CLAIMS ALL ARE INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. INDICATING ALL BULLY BREEDS ARE GUILTY BECAUSE OF THERI BREED IS LIKE SAYING ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS!!!

Pauli Kesäläinen

Jos koira puree ihmistä pitäisi selvittää myös miten kyseinen henkilö on kohdellut koiraa ?
Vika ei aina ole eläimessä , vaan eläimen kohtelussa !!!

Amanda M.
Amanda M5 years ago

Maryland needs to reverse this ruling COMPLETELY. There are no bad dogs, there are merely BAD OWNERS. ANY dog, if not raised and taken care of properly, can become vicious. Statistics in fact prove that it's the smaller-breed dogs that cause more of the bites-it's just that they do less damage with their bites that causes them to get less media attention! Good grief!

kim d.
kim deal5 years ago

The dogs aren't the problem, it's how we treat them. When you get a puppy, if you keep it in the house, if you take it places and socialize it, have strangers(kids and adults) handle it,and you don't play aggressive games with it like "tug" then that dog will be less likely to become a problem. If you get a puppy and you put it out in the back yard on a chain, or even just the back yard. You never pet it, you never socialize it, you only take food and water out once or twice aday, the dog never knows anything else, YOU are creating disaster!!!! Be responsible people, take care and train what you have, it's the owners fault 99 percent of the time. There are of coarse some dogs that no matter what you do, they are a problem. It is not usually a pit bull, it's the "fear agressive" dog, like shepherds. Also the flighty breeds,(the ones in the non-sporting group) I'd worry more about chows and dalmations than i'd ever worry about the "bully" breeds.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch5 years ago

No bad dogs, just bad owners!