Md. dogs and their families have suffered since a court ruling made it difficult to find housing with a pit bull-type dog. Sally Ryan
The Maryland Senate unanimously passed legislation today that will remedy a 2012 Court of Appeals ruling that deemed “pit bulls” to be “inherently dangerous.”
S.B. 247 represents a middle ground between positions taken by the House and the Senate. The bill removes the breed specific standard and instead raises the bar for all dog owners, regardless of the breed of their dog, though Senators adopted an amendment establishing strict liability if the dog was running at large. Similar legislation (H.B. 73, introduced by Del. Luiz Simmons, D-17) is awaiting action by the House of Delegates.
“Marylanders have waited nearly two years for lawmakers to address the misguided policy established by the court’s decision,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “We commend the Senate for approving this compromise legislation that is fair to both dog owners and dog bite victims, and we expect the House to show strong leadership and join the Senate in moving this critical legislation forward.”
Since April of 2012, landlords, condominium associations, and homeowner’s associations have considered changing their policies toward pit bull-type dogs. Some have published policies refusing to give tenancy to owners of pit bull dogs, forcing families to relocate or find a new home for their beloved pets.
Singling out a particular breed or type of dog has repeatedly been proven to be ineffective at curbing dog bites because breed alone is not predictive of whether a dog may pose a danger. A dog’s propensity to bite is a product of several factors primarily under the owner’s control, including early socialization, whether the dog is spayed or neutered and whether the dog is isolated or chained. More information can be found at humanesociety.org/protectmddogs.
S.B 247, introduced by Sen. Brian Frosh (D-16) would reverse the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling and set reasonable standards for dog owners and victims in dog bite cases.
The Court of Appeals ruling holds dog owners—and landlords, boarders, groomers, veterinarians and other third parties—strictly liable for any injuries caused by the dog. This ruling was a massive departure from existing Maryland law, unprecedented across the country and forced many Maryland dog owners to choose between their pets and their homes.
This legislation marks the third attempt of the General Assembly to address the unintended consequences of the ruling, after the Senate and the House of Delegates have twice reached a stalemate regarding the appropriate standard of liability in dog bite cases.
S.B. 247 passed by a 45-0 vote after intense debate on Wednesday over an amendment striking the compromise language of the bill and replacing it with language establishing strict liability for dog owners. That amendment was defeated.