The HSUS Urges Legislature to Pass Bill Addressing Impacts of Maryland “Pit Bull” Ruling

The Humane Society of the United States urges the Maryland General Assembly to swiftly pass legislation addressing the impacts of a controversial court ruling  declaring that pit bull dogs are “inherently dangerous.” Legislators considered a bill addressing the ruling during the August special session of the General Assembly but the Senate and House of Delegates could not agree on the details, leaving Maryland families and dogs at risk.

Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, and Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, introduced Senate Bill 160/House Bill 78, followed by a joint press conference announcing a compromise on the legislation and a pathway to push it forward. This legislation would reverse the court’s breed-specific rule, remove the strict liability imposed on landlords and other third parties, and enact a new standard for all dog owners if their dog injures someone, regardless of breed or type of dog.

“The Humane Society of the United States is so grateful that lawmakers have agreed on a reasonable measure to address the unintended consequences of the court’s ruling while still providing a remedy for victims of dog bites,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The HSUS. “Thousands of Maryland dog owners have faced an emergency situation for the last nine months, and we urge the General Assembly to pass this legislation quickly to provide some much needed relief.”

The ruling has forced many Maryland residents to choose between their homes and their beloved pets. Over the last nine months, landlords have sent warning notices to renters with pit bull-type dogs, condominium associations and homeowner’s associations have considered changing their policies, local governments have scrambled to address liability at city dog parks and other public spaces, and animal shelters have braced for an influx of pit bull-type dogs.

“I am pleased that we have been able to reach a compromise,” said Sen. Frosh. “I think this bill will be fair to victims, pet owners and landlords.”

“This is a reasonable compromise that will restore some measure of sanity and predictability to the ownership of animals in Maryland and the rights of people who have been injured,” said Del. Simmons. “By restoring landlords to their common law liability, it will also eliminate any incentive landlords had under Tracey v. Solesky to force their tenants to get rid of their dogs.”

Singling out a particular breed or type of dog has repeatedly been proven to be ineffective 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 including early socialization, whether the dog is spayed or neutered, whether the dog is chained in the backyard, and the owner’s behavior. Additionally, many dogs are misidentified as pit bulls, putting all dogs in Maryland at risk. Baltimore residents who were told to get rid of their dogs or face eviction are currently challenging the ruling – Tracey v. Solesky – in federal court.

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