Victory in Maryland!

April 14, 2014  


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 had 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, as many were forced to surrender their family dogs to shelters.

The legislature attempted to reverse the Court decision several times during 2013, but was unable to come to a consensus.  Since the 2014 session started in January, advocates have been hard at work to make sure a compromise between the House and Senate could be reached.  Finally, on April 8, 2014, Governor O’Malley signed the compromise legislation into law, reversing the Court decision that declared pit bulls “inherently dangerous” and removing the only statewide breed discriminatory policy in the country.  

“Passage of this compromise legislation ends this disgraceful era of court sanctioned canine profiling, in which families with pit bull-type dogs were forced to choose between their homes and their beloved pets,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Lawmakers voted against singling out particular breeds and in favor of raising the bar for all dog owners to protect victims of dog bites.”

The new legislation, which was designated an emergency measure and therefore takes effect immediately, holds owners liable for injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of breed.  The law 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.  The law also removes strict liability for landlords and other third parties which is an immense relief for renters in Maryland. Additionally, owner liability may be avoided if the bite victim was trespassing, committing or attempting to commit a crime, or provoking the dog.

Another bill, SB 422, which would have preempted municipalities in the state from passing breed discriminatory policies failed to advance in the Maryland General Assembly.  

We’d like to thank the advocates at B-More Dog for their amazing work on this.  Congratulations on this victory!


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

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