Best Friends Blog

Maryland anti–pit bull ruling could be overturned

A new bill goes to the Maryland Senate as SB 160, and, if passed, will advance public safety and save the lives of thousands of well-behaved pit bulls. SB 160 and the House companion bill, HB 78, are in response to a misguided ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals last April in the case of Tracey vs. Solesky, which stipulates that in addition to the dog’s owner, the landlord or anyone who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject property is liable for damages if a bite is inflicted by a pit bull or pit bull mix. In essence, the court found that simply owning a pit bull or allowing one of your renters to own a pit is negligent behavior.

Yikes! The effect of that ruling was to spur a rash of evictions and the surrender of pit bulls to shelters with little chance of adoption given the liability issue for pet owners and landlords, not to mention problems related to homeowners insurance, etc. Such breed-discriminatory legislation does not advance public safety because it separates legal consequences and liability from the behavior of individual dogs and reckless owner practices.

The new law, which sailed through the Maryland House and goes to the state Senate as SB 160, would effectively overturn the ill-advised court ruling. The new law would also increase protections for dog-bite victims by presuming all dog owners, regardless of the breed of dog, liable for attacks. A dog owner who becomes a court defendant after a bite would have a chance in court to try to prove the dog was not dangerous, and, therefore, the bite was not a matter of owner negligence.

SB 160/HB 78 is in the mold of other progressive dangerous dog laws that offer broader public safety by focusing on behavior rather than breed and is supported by Best Friends and other national animal welfare organizations as well as public safety advocates.

If you live in Maryland, please take a moment to help ensure passage of SB 160.

Francis Battista
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Susan

    Fortunately, so many pit bull owners and animal lovers showed up at Tuesday’s meeting of the Broward County, Florida Board of Commissioners’ meeting that the proposed countywide BSL ordinance(aimed at pit bull breeds, of course) was actually withdrawn by its sponsor, Commissioner Shareif. The second part of the proposed ordinance, requiring stiffer penalties for dog owners who do not vaccinate their dogs, let them run wild and who keep them for the purpose of fighting or train them to fight, did pass. Florida already has a strong dangerous dog law and the second part of this proposed was aimed at utilizing that law in a much more constructive way–punishing the bad owners, not the dogs. There is strength in numbers!

  • Angie

    I would love to join this group to save pit bulls. They are really sweet. Bad people make them do bad things. Those people should be destroyed and NOT the dogs.

  • Guest

    Is there anything those of us outside Maryland can do, except spread the word?

  • Anonymous

    Very good news. Fairness towards dogs and people and reinforcing responsible dog ownership for all dogs. Very nice.