Saving Maryland’s Pit Bulls

June 18, 2012  

By Laura Petrolino, VP of Operations

Watching the people and dogs of Maryland react, struggle, triumph and most importantly pull together into an army of support and advocacy has positioned them as a bittersweet case study of what misguided court rulings (read about the Maryland Court Solesky ruling HERE) and shortsighted, “quick fix” breed-discriminatory legislation can do to a community. On one side you see the amazing community pull together. BARCS, B-More Dog and the many other rescues, shelters and individual advocates out there that are working together to help both the dogs and families affected by this ruling. It is inspiring and heart-warming. On the other side you see the mounting repercussions that this blow has dealt to these same families, dogs, businesses and communities.
(photo by Erica Daniel, all rights reserved)

The story of Jon, Sammy and Sunny is just one example of those repercussions. Jon is a small business owner, a “pit bull” dog parent and a long-time renter in Towson who was forced to make the ultimate lose-lose decision: get rid of his beloved family pets or get evicted from his house. If Sammy and Sunny can’t remain with him, Jon might have to move his small business and his family out of the state of Maryland forever.

We thank Jon and Animal Farm Foundation for helping to share this story. Not only does it illustrate the emotional toll this ruling has taken on dog lovers, but it also shows, far too well, how the Maryland economy is also taking a hit.

We talk about advocacy and what each one of you can do to help. Well, here is something simple and straightforward that every single person in the StubbyDog community can do. After you read Jon’s story, we ask for you all to send a respectful e-mail to the people on the task force examining this issue.

The Humane Society provides an excellent example of proper language to be used HERE.

You can reach the task force members at the following e-mails:

TASK FORCE MEMBERS

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

Please remember, your voice does make a difference and a collective voice is extremely powerful! Changing public perception and improving the lives of pit bull type dogs isn’t going to happen overnight; it will occur step by step through the efforts and outreach of all of you!

Now here is Jon’s story:

So after four days of research, countless nights without sleep, phone calls, lawyers, insurance agents, policy adjustments and flat out desperation, I’m sad to say that there is nothing I can do to convince my landlord to allow me to keep my dogs. The irresponsible decision handed down back in April by the Maryland Appellate Court has led to yet another responsible dog owner losing his beloved pets, based on the actions of a few irresponsible and neglectful owners. I will be temporarily placing my dogs in the care of friends until the senate’s special session in July. After that I will ultimately decide if my dogs will be able to return home, or if I will be moving, or even whether I will even be staying in the state of Maryland. This may not only uproot a good tenant of four years, but a local business owner as well, adding further hardship to the entire situation. My dogs are very important to me, and while kicking them out is a quick fix for a landlord, it could never be a quick fix for me.

Many of you know my dogs, have met and played with them, and know very well that they could never be a threat to anyone, and only want a stick to chew on, and a belly rub every now and then. All that being said, the court’s ruling – an unprecedented overstepping of judicial power – has led hundreds of landlords having no option but to remove their tenants’ dogs or evict their tenants. Many responsible, loving families are left with no option but to lose their pets or lose their homes. I spoke with many lawyers and insurance agents, upped my renter’s insurance, offered to raise my coverage to $10 million, suggested adding several stipulations to my lease and even suggested putting a lien on my business. Yet even then, there is still nothing legally to shield or insulate my landlord from being pursued if the worst should happen. No questions asked, no need for proof of anything.

The unprecedented Solesky v. Tracey ruling on April 26 did not only pass judgment on that case, but also effectively handed down judgment on every dog owner in the Maryland – not just pit bull owners, all dog owners – creating a backdoor pit bull ban, without legislative review, congressional oversight or referendum whatsoever. Simple congressional oversight could regulate legislation to allow tenants to keep their animals, specifying the specific burden of liability on responsible pet owners in holding adequate insurance, etc. But as of now, an irresponsible and poorly thought through judgment has lead to a “no questions asked, no need for proof” liability for all dog owners, as there is simply no consensus among experts about what is and what is not a pit bull. The “inherently dangerous” clause will lead to hundreds of lawsuits with no statute of limitations on liability or burden of proof. This, in turn, makes it impossible to lease to owners of these dogs. Many of the already overcrowded shelters and rescue operations in Maryland have already had a huge influx of abandoned or relinquished dogs due to this. Good dogs that had loving homes will now have to spend the remainder of their lives in a 3-by-3-foot cage until they are either adopted or most likely destroyed.

After weeks of public outcry and the intervention of many advocacy groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA, a joint legislative task force will convene in Annapolis next Tuesday to discuss the many ramifications left in the wake of this ruling. The vast gray areas in this judgment have tied the hands of property owners, insurance companies, landlords and tenants alike, and the consequences of this ruling (whether intended or unintended) must be addressed. I implore all of you to call your representatives, even the governor himself, and tell them that the ruling must be reconsidered, rescinded or revised to correct the incredible amount of negative impact it has created for voters in Maryland. Demand that this case be discussed in July’s special session meeting and that the ruling be suspended until further discussion can take place.

Like this article, share it and make it viral!!

Here’s a link to find your representatives. Please give them a call.
And if you can find the time next Tuesday, join me at the joint task force meeting in Annapolis and offer your support for us as we try to get our dogs back.

Tracey v. Solesky Task Force Hearing
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Hearing Room
Miller Senate Office Building, Suite 2E
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

Join the event!

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Comments

20 Responses to “Saving Maryland’s Pit Bulls”
  1. jennmartinelli says:

    Even though I live in Massachusetts, I sent a heartfelt letter to all the reps you list above. I hope it helps. I hope thousands of people send similar notices.
     
    It just breaks my heart how unnecessary and cruel this type of law is. In Boston pit bulls aren’t banned, thank goodness, but you do have to pay a lot to license a pit bull ($50) whereas any other dog is a mere $7, and you are supposed to muzzle them anytime they are in public. Of course, people who are abusive owners don’t follow these rules just like they don’t follow the rules of common decency to treat their dog appropriately, so it accomplishes nothing except that sweet loving dogs have to walk around with muzzles on and people are punished monetarily for taking in a dog that others won’t help.
     
    It makes me so angry. I hope this unfair ruling will be reversed. Good luck.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @jennmartinelli Thank you, thank you  for sending a heartfelt letter, everyone’s input surely helps. As for Boston, it’s sad that pit bulls are still discriminated against. And seeing a pit bull walking around with a muzzle on does nothing good for their already tarnished reputation. So it succeeds in accomplishing the opposite of its intent, just makes people fell they do need to fear pit bulls. we hope things change in Boston too. Thanks again.

    •  @jennmartinelli Thank you so much Jenn! And very well said!

    • lovabull says:

       @jennmartinelli “Of course, people who are abusive owners don’t follow these rules” I COMPLETELY AGREE. BSL only affects law abiding citizens… just like if guns were outlawed, only criminals would have them.  That is why BSL never works.

  2. Like everyone else has said, this just breaks my heart. It’s amazing what one disrespectful person’s actions can do to change the lives of so many others around them. I hope the ruling will be reversed, and these families will be able to live with their pets without any more disruption or disrespect. Best of luck to everyone; you’re all in my thoughts as this moves forward. 

  3. DCbutterfingers says:

    I live in Maryland and truly wanted to go to Annapolis tomorrow, but alas, I am a journal editor and have to be available to approve printer proofs tomorrow — which can’t be put off. I sent a note to this task force (two of whom are my representatives). I did ask why a representative from the website dogbite.org was asked to testify. It is a website out of Texas, with no affiliation to Maryland. The woman who runs the website, Colleen Lynn, has no academic degree of any kind, much less one affiliated with veterinary medicine or animal behavior, nor does she or her website have any affiliation or backing of any professional animal advocacy group or veterinary society. It does bother me that a website created by individual with no professional resume (other than her former stint as an online psychic for $1 a minute), and is full of mythology and manufactured statistics, is even taken seriously enough by my state government to be given a voice in this matter. I’m hoping that if others question this decision, the “facts” that are presented by this individual will be at least questioned for citing and fact-checking — as well they should.

    • lovabull says:

       @DCbutterfingers I am a MD resident as well, in my letters to these representatives I asked them to PLEASE only base their decision on facts! I had no idea that Colleen was testifying… I am furious!
       

    • AmandaFitzgerald says:

       @DCbutterfingers OH NO is she really going to be there?Where did you hear this? I am planning on going tomorrow I hope I miss her. Its so biased and unfair that a woman who is a pit bull bite “victim” should run a website for dog bite stats. would you EVER trust a rape victim or rapists to interpret rape stats??? No because they would be biased.

    • DCbutterfingers says:

       @DCbutterfingers She was NOT there. Another blog had her listed as one of the people testifying. My understanding is that the dogbite people were there “tweeting” the proceedings. I was very glad that they did not have a voice.

    • Judithg says:

       @DCbutterfingers This site is very anti-pitbull.  I have seen the types of comments she posts and then other people read them and reiterate them as factual.  Very annoying and biased.  

  4. PatriciaSalyers says:

    If your not man enough to handle your dog and tech them the right ways then go fuck yourself don’t cause problems for people like me with a pit bulls. In fact if yours is such a problem give them to me. I love them and know how to properly train them. Fuck anyone who has a problem with MY DOG!

  5. PatriciaSalyers says:

    Give me an address… I don’t do heartfelt (they don’t deserve it) but whatever it takes. I am a pit bull owner and he is just the sweetest thing ever! I wont do heartfelt but I can make a damn good case.

  6. Matt.S says:

    This court definitely overstepped it’s authority with this decision. Sadly, this may have been a calculated move to implement BDL without public consent via bypassing the legislature altogether. Hopefully this irresponsible action by the court will be addressed and rectified.

  7. jennmartinelli says:

    I got a positive response from Senator Stone’s legislative assistant saying she would be sure he saw my message and that this was a very important issue. When I thanked her she reiterated how important it was.
     
    I hope this is a sign that others will take it as seriously. Thank you, JoAnne!

  8. AnnColeman says:

    Thanks @LauraPetrolino and @StubbyDog for your continued support of Maryland pit bull (and dog) owners. I am heartened by the task force yesterday, it went well. Everyone PLEASE continue to contact this group, I am convinced this is working.

  9. pitbullsrock says:

    I listened to Mr. and Mrs. Solesky being interviewed after yesterday’s hearing and while I’ve never had a family member, let alone a child, mauled by a dog, I can’t blame their bitterness towards the breed. I remember I held a grudge against all English bulldogs after my Lab-boxer mix was attacked in her older years. UNTIL I educated myself.
     
    What I wish the Soleskys could understand is that although they don’t see a problem with denominating a type or breed of dog “inherently dangerous,” it does put a black mark on all pit bulls, everywhere, including in other states and around the world. It also gives the impression that their incident was worse than someone who is mauled by another breed of dog, which I really don’t think they mean to convey, or at least I hope not. Mrs. Solesky’s statement that it looked like a shark attack really isn’t helpful. Gee, I can only imagine who coached that worn out term. Someone with the initials CL, I would bet.
     
    If safety is the Soleskys’ main focus, then I hope that someday they will realize it’s not an us v. them situation, but that we should all work together to reduce these types of tragedies. I can’t tell you how many non-dog owners and even dog owners have told me Labs and goldens “don’t bite” and when I quote some statistics they look askance at me because they never read about those attacks in the news or see them on T.V.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @pitbullsrock you make excellent points, unfortunately an attack by a pit bull is not seen as just an attack by a dog. Hopefully people will look at what preceded the attack and not the type of dog that was involved.

  10. RobinSmithlutz says:

    BSL=Breedism=Racism. There is no excuse for ignorance. No matter what has happened. The court is supposed to be an impartial voice that can make an unbiased decision not one that explodes out of anger, ignorance, and hatred. 

  11. avegas72 says:

    Are individuals from other states allowed to voice their opinion? If so, I would love to write a letter.
     
    I hope and pray that one day, pittie’s won’t be the most persecuted breed of dog alive (or any dog for that matter). I love my dog to no end…and could not imagine my life without her!  I really hope everything works out in favor for all the Maryland dog owners. I am crossing my fingers tightly!
     
    I like to think that “BSL” stands for “Bull S*** Legislation”…..because it has no useful purpose other than to create chaos and destroy families.  🙁

  12. Cara10 says:

    @pitbullsrock I think that the worst biting offender dog breed is the Chihuahua…rarely do you hear that statistic being screamed ad nauseum in the media or the courts…