Maryland Legislature Attempts to Reverse Breed Discriminatory Court Decision

January 14, 2014  

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Currently, Maryland is the only state in the country with a statewide breed discriminatory policy.  In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that “pit bulls” are “inherently dangerous” and imposed a new strict liability standard on landlords who knew or had reason to know that a tenant has a pit bull on the premises.[1]  This decision was catastrophic, particularly to renters whose family dogs happen to be pit bull terrier like dogs.

This Court of Appeals decision is not supported by Maryland’s dog bite record.[2]  Between 1965 and 2012 there were 12 dog bite-related fatalities in Maryland with 9 different breeds assigned to the dogs in those cases.  In that same time period, almost 20 different breed descriptors have been assigned to cases of severe, but non-fatal dog bites, with no single breed predominating. [3]

The legislature attempted to reverse the Court decision several times during 2013, but was unable to come to a consensus.  The 2014 legislative session has begun and legislation addressing the impacts of this Court of Appeals ruling is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on January 23rd.  The proposed legislation, House Bill 73, makes dog owners, not landlords, responsible for injuries caused by their dogs.  The Bill creates a presumption that the owner of a dog (of any breed) who has caused injury to a person knew or should have known that their dog had dangerous propensities.  However, this presumption may be rebutted with evidence that the owner had no such knowledge, for example, the dog does well at doggy daycare, is friendly to strangers, has been through obedience training, etc.

HB 73 specifically states that “it is the intent of the General Assembly that this Act abrogate the holding of the Court of Appeals in Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627 (2012)” and that it is an “emergency measure that shall take effect immediately upon enactment.”

Best Friends Animal Society has set up this action alert to make it simple to contact your legislators and ask them to support HB 73.

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**StubbyDog will be partnering with B-More Dog to screen Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent, a documentary film examining breed discrimination and the effect it has on local communities.  This motivating film shows us that advocates really can make a difference and we hope the people of Maryland will come spend an evening with us and get inspired! The screening will take place on February 11th at the Charles Theater in Baltimore.  Tickets available here!

[1] Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627, 50 A.3d 1075 (2012)

[2] “Maryland’s Experience: the Public Record & the Tracey v. Solesky Ruling,” National Canine Research Council

[3] Id.

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One Response to “Maryland Legislature Attempts to Reverse Breed Discriminatory Court Decision”
  1. leave these dogs alone they are good dogs ,,,get a grip Maryland don’t be behind the times