Strict Liability for Pit Bulls in Maryland

A divided Maryland Court of Appeals has made new law today. In Tracey v. Solesky, the court ruled that in dog bite cases involving a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull mix, it is no longer necessary to prove that the dog in particular or pit bulls in general are dangerous. Is this a win for plaintiffs’ lawyers? Is it an anti-dog opinion? Will it lead to changes in homeowners’ policies throughout Maryland? With apologies to Steven L. Miles, let’s talk about it. (August 21, 2012 Update: Incredibly, the court has reversed itself on a key portion of this opinion.)

This case involves a pit bull named Clifford who lived in East Towson, just two blocks from York Road and the Towson University campus. While a big fellow like Clifford the Big Dog, this Clifford was a bit more viperous. One day, Clifford attacked hugepitbulltwo boys on the same day in Towson, Maryland. The injuries to the second boy were serious: he needed five hours of surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital to address his injuries, including surgery to repair his femoral artery. He spent seventeen days in the hospital, had additional surgeries, and spent a year in rehabilitation. I’m not sure how old the boy was but, either way, it’s just an awful thing.

The boy and his parents brought suit against the owners of the pit bull that mauled him and the owners’ landlords. The owners of the dog went into bankruptcy and received a discharge of their debt. The only defendant standing was the landlord (Although the Long & Foster lease executed allowed Clifford’s owners to keep an “American Bulldog Terrier” on a property that did not have a fence.).

It was not entirely clear from the facts, but it seems that the case was taken from the jury at the close of the evidence (I think the better play in this case would have been to let the jury give its verdict and then rule on the motion so, after all of that work, you would have a verdict if the appellate court’s disagreed, which is what we have now.).

The majority opinion, written by “retired” Judge Dale R. Cathell, painstakingly set for the available facts (including a lot of judicial notice type stuff) that pit bulls are dangerous and looked at other jurisdictions who have acknowledged that these dogs are basically inherently dangerous. This is not the usual “this was the law all along – you guys just didn’t know it?” appellate opinion. It is clear that a new law has been made that creates strict liability for pit bulls in dog bite cases. This new law is prospective and applies to this case and causes of action accruing after today.

So what does it all mean? I think this is a win for Maryland lawyers handling pit bull dog bite cases and their clients. It does make bringing pit bull dog bite cases a whole lot easier. Establishing propensity in dog bite cases can be an impossible task – the defendants usually have all of the evidence and are not giving it up so easily. There is a fear that Maryland homeowners’ policies will be changed to exclude pit bulls, but I don’t see that happening for a lot of reasons. Insurance companies loathe to change policy language – P.G. County has essentially had this law for years without any reaction from insurers. Mortgage companies would also balk because it will leave their loans exposed.

I think ultimately the law should probably be even more simple. Dog owners should be responsible for injuries caused when their dogs bit someone. Pit bull or Yorkshire Terrier. Someone has to “pay” for the injuries. Wouldn’t it make sense for that someone not to be the innocent victims?

This is not a good opinion for pit bulls themselves. I love dogs and I love pit bulls like any other dog. That’s not a throwaway line. I really mean it. But pit bulls are like that scorpion and the frog story: they are who they are (notwithstanding your “My Dog Sparky Was Half Pit and He Was the Sweetest Dog You Have Ever Seen” story). You cannot blame the pit bull or any dog. If a dog bit me, the last “person” I would blame would be the dog. Aggressive dogs are going to be aggressive dogs. It is in their blood. [I revise that opinion here.]
My view? I’ve seen estimates that as many as 6 million dogs are put to sleep killed each year. It is just awful. Should we really be breeding more pit bulls just so their owners can feel more like tough guys? Pit bulls should be spayed or neutered and we should move on with the dogs we have too many of already, ones that can live in harmony with other animals and humans.

One other point about the question of how this opinion impacts dogs. This case is not a litmus test on who loves dogs the most, or who cares the most for injured children. There was a 4-3 opinion in this case for a reason: people can have different views of what is the best law for people, dogs, and justice. The majority opinion is not anti-dog, and the dissent is not anti-victim. You would never know it in this partisan world we live in now where everyone who does not agree with us is an idiot or worse. But people with equally good intentions can disagree which is the situation I think we have here.

There is one other maddening thing about this case that the court did not address. The defendant had two good lawyers. State Farm’s in-house counsel was involved in the case, as was Budow and Noble, who I suspect also represented State Farm (they seem to do a lot of Erie work, too). Anyway, State Farm (I assume) successfully fought to have the defendant basically excused from discovery for health reasons based on a vague “To Whom It May Concern” letter from her doctor. Yet the defendant was perfectly able to go grocery shopping with her daughter, prepare her own meals and take care of her own dogs. Worse still, she coincidentally gained strength before trial, attending trial every day sitting next to her State Farm lawyers.

Assuming these were the facts (I got them from plaintiffs’ brief), this is absolutely maddening to me. People dying – literally dying – from cancer or from asbestos exposure, are forced to give 25 hours of deposition testimony, but a defendant can send in an “I’m not feeling so well” note from a doctor and she is excused from discovery? The plaintiffs’ lawyers must have been apoplectic when she sat down at the trial table on the first day of trial.

Speaking of plaintiffs’ lawyers, plaintiffs were represented by Ober, Kaler who seems to be handling more plaintiffs’ cases of late. I think Ober, Kaler is doing this work on the DL. I can’t imagine their corporate clients would be excited to hear they are taking on big corporations and insurance companies. But they apparently did a great job in this case. So thanks for making good law. Now please exit the back door and quit crowding my space.

You can find the opinion here. My post focused on the majority opinion but the dissent is very well written and includes some very good rhetorical questions that are hard to answer.

  • Syjere

    I agree with the court on this one. Statistically, they’re correct.

  • mhs

    Ugh this is an awful decision. 1. it’s obviously an aim for deep pockets because the owner of the rental property would have no idea the aggression level of a dog, and the liability should be limited to the owner of the dog. 2. how are you to define “pit bull” or “pit bull mix” since it is not really a breed. as the article notes, the dog was an american bulldog. the dogs that attacked the kids in DC recently were cane corsos. Whose eyes get to determine “pit bull”? 3. this will indeed lead to fewer property owners allowing any renters to own any breed of medium or large dog–as any breed could be a “pit mix”, which will lead to an already overburdened shelter system killing that many more dogs. 4. if they wanted to help the defendants in this case, they should change bankruptcy rules so that the owners of the dog would not have gotten off completely free and have ruined the ability of pit bull owners to have a dog that isn’t being pre-judged even though it hasn’t done anything remotely aggressive. Horrible law, i just pray the general assembly corrects it. Two of the authors are retired judges anyway. i wish they would have stayed in retirement for this case.

  • holly

    Yet another travesty in this state – while so many individuals and groups try to move forward with rescue and EDUCATION, those ‘in charge’ take us steps back. Cats and dogs are being set on fire and abused, yet the perpetrators get *maybe* a slap on the wrist. I have been given a job offer out of Maryland, I am SO happy to be moving out of this embarrasingly bass-ackwards state that claims to be ‘progressive.”

  • Amber T

    As a Pit Bull owner, I can agree that owners should be responsible if their dog attacks someone. Others might disagree with me, but I believe that the human behind the leash is responsible for their dog. If they can not responsibly handle their dog, they should not own one. When I take my dog out in public, she is kept short-leashed around other people, and I will allow people to approach her– IF they ask me first. Not because she is a mean dog, but because I don’t want her startled. She has never bitten, and lives peacefully with 2 small breed dogs, 3 cats, my husband, 2 children, and a hamster (That she plays with gently!)… That being said, I also don’t allow her to free-roam, I don’t chain her, or leave her outside alone.

    I am as responsible for her welfare as I am for my children.

    The only way I can see that this law would be detrimental would be if someone were to be attacked while breaking and entering, or something similar.

    If my dog bit someone under any circumstance that was not one where she would feel her life (or our family’s lives) were in jeopardy, I would have her put to sleep myself. That’s just my opinion.

    As far as breeding, no I don’t think we should stop breeding. But I do think that the majority of “Pit Bull” type dogs that are being bred are not worth breeding. I have several friends that raise registered, working Pit Bulls that they compete with in shows, weight pull, schutzhund, and other sports. But they are also responsible breeders who do not over produce, do not sell to the general public, and are breeding for the love of the breed and for a purpose. I think that people who are doing nothing more than producing pets should be required to alter their pets and stop filling our shelters.

    Thank you for your time.

  • Victoria Minkov

    Dear Ronald!

    Is there an appeals process that could overturn the decision? If so, who would need to file it?

    Thank you!

  • Ron Miller

    The dogs owners sought bankruptcy protection but, ultimately, they were likely a dead end anyway. Trying to get money from people individually for serious injuries is unlikely to accomplish much.

  • Ron Miller

    I understand the breeding for love of the breed and think it is sincere. But could these folks fall in love with some of the 6 million dogs that are put to death every year. It reminds me of Stalin’s line about a single death being a tragedy and million of deaths being a statistic. But think about 6 million dogs. That’s 60 million over 10 years. If we could all be a little less vain about our pure breeds and take care of some of these dogs, that would seem to be the best possible outcome.

  • Elle

    Thank you for the write-up on this case. When I first heard about this decision, I panicked (though I’m still slightly panicked after reading).

    It boggles me why this is a case about “pitbulls” attacking people. The problem here is that people were viciously attacked by someone’s dogs, not the way the dogs looked. If I were attacked by someone’s lab mix, why would I have to provide more evidence of my injury than if I were attacked by someone’s “pitbull” mix?

    Your claim that “pitbulls” are naturally dangerous, that “Aggressive dogs are going to be aggressive dogs. It is in their blood.” is completely untrue. They are not naturally aggressive, inherently vicious, or unpredictable. It really is that simple. They are not. Furthermore, I’m sure you’re aware that “pitbull” isn’t a breed at all, but a collection of a dozen or so breeds and countless mixes that look similar. To throw these baseless accusations at such a wide group of animals is preposterous.

    Your suggestion that we should “move on” from these worthless and inherently dangerous “pitbulls” to more acceptable-looking dogs “that can live in harmony with other animals and humans” is offensive and belies a deep ignorance and prejudice. All of these dogs who suffer from stereotyping and abuse at the hands of people because they look a certain way should be wiped off the planet so we can focus our energies on dogs who YOU think “deserve” it? And you call yourself a dog lover? Disgusting.

  • Megan Tramsey

    I love dogs, too. I’ve read your blog post and I’ve read the majority view and the dissent. I agree this is a bad outcome for pit bulls. I don’t know whether it is a good outcome for dogs. There should be some third way but I don’t know what that would be.

  • Ron Miller

    Elle, I appreciate your comment and I’m not unmindful of your point of view.

    I’m sorry, these dogs are more unpredictable than most dogs. Read the court’s opinion; I think the evidence is hard to argue with.

    You also built up a little steam and read to much into what I said. I said let’s spay and neuter these dogs and stop breeding them. That does not make them worthless. It is such an easy opinion to have. I think we should stop breeding and selling dogs in general. There are lots of dogs that need a home. Set aside your vanity and get a mutt.

    Is this so crazy and so anti-dog?

  • mhs

    Ron, I dont know if you have been to a shelter in Maryland lately, if ever, but if you tell us to adopt a “mutt” it is going to be a “pit mix”. The “baltimore brown dog” as those in the rescue community refer to the majority of dogs in the shelter, would be considered “pit mixes” since “pit bulls” are already an amalgamation of breeds. I realize you are excited about this ruling because it will help win cases/earn money, but it’s really a trajedy to people who work hard to save deserving animals. It is back door BLS–so that the people of the state were not allowed to have a say in it. “I have a dream that I will one day not be judged by my appearance, but by the content of my character.” racism v. breedism, there are similarities.

  • Alex

    Ron: would you tell me where in the opinion I can find the statistical data on this? Thanks

  • Amie

    “I’m sorry, these dogs are more unpredictable than most dogs…. I think the evidence is hard to argue with.”

    And yet you argue with it:
    Most recently scoring over 86%, the American Pit Bull Terrier has regularly tested MORE predictably than most dog breeds – including Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Cairn Terriers (Toto from the movie The Wizard of Oz), Greyhounds, Old English Sheepdog, Portuguese Water Dog (our “first dog”), and Yorkshire Terriers.

    Responsibility for properly managing a dog should always fall on the dog’s owner (not the dog’s owner’s landlord), and actual, real, studies, not media bias, show time and time and time again that breed has nothing to do with a dog’s propensity for aggression.

  • Ron Miller

    Alex, start reading on page 14. The evidence is to the point where the court is taking judicial notice. Here’s one:

    Our Trauma and Emergency Surgery Services treated 228 patients with dog bite injuries; for 82 of those patients the breed of the dog involved was recorded (29 were injured by pit bulls)[29 out of 82]. Compared with attacks by other breeds of dogs, attacks by pit bulls were associated with a higher median injury Severity Scale score (4 vs.1; P=0.002), a higher risk of an admission Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8 or lower (17.2% vs. 0%; P=0.006), higher median hospital charges ($10,500 vs. $7200/ P=0.0003); and a higher risk of death (10.3% vs. 0%; (P=0.041).

    Our family dog died last year. He was a great and loyal dog. His big weakness was a propensity to bite people that were not in his family/pack. Our solution was to keep him way from other people. If he had bit someone, I would think that was my responsibility.

    I don’t equate breedism to racism. I think we should stop breeding new dogs that cause harm to other animals and humans. Don’t hurt the ones we have now. Stop breeding new ones. I understand fierce loyalty to individual dogs, regardless of breed. I don’t really understand this unrestrained loyalty to specific breeds.

    I wonder if you are also offended by speciesISM. Because I fear being alone with tigers. I don’t choose to get to know each tiger individually. I just apply this prejudice without further thought.

    Please remember what this case is really saying. It is not banning pit bulls. It is saying that if you pit bull bites someone, you are responsible for it.

  • Tracy

    [Editor’s Note: the writer of this comment is my sister]
    Sadly, this opinion will perpetuate the sterotype of pit bulls, and will result in more sweet, innocent animals being put to death because they are a “pit mix.” Many pounds already have a double-standard where pit bull mixes are killed if they show the least bit of fear aggression (and who wouldn’t in that situation). As reported in Scientic American, the most “aggressive” breeds toward strangers, actually, are dachshunds and chihuahuas. More than 20 percent of dachshund owners, for example, reported that their dogs had either bitten or attempted to bite a stranger in the recent past, compared to only 4.7 percent of pit bull owners who reported these stranger-directed aggressive behaviors in their dogs. Personally, I trust my pit bull mix around my three-year son more than I have trusted any of the many dogs that I have had throughout the years. Yes, pit bulls attract owners who train them to be aggressive, but that does not mean that there are inherently more aggressive (at least toward people). Spay and neuter all dogs until pet overpopulation is under control, not just those whose appearance scares you.

  • Sarah

    There is a lot of false evidence used in the court’s opinion. For instance, they bring up the hoary “2000 PSI bite pressure” myth. Not based on fact, that is an urban legend that’s been passed around so much, people believe it’s true. To my knowledge, there has never been a real way to prove PSI of a dog bite, though Animal Planet did do a special in which they tested PSI on a few attack trained dogs. One was a pit bull, which was relatively similar to the GSD, the Rottweiler was higher than either of them. Whether those numbers are representative of entire breeds isn’t proven, it isn’t really a scientific test. The court’s opinion also uses “Animal People” as a source of breed statistics. Again, not based on fact. “Animal People” is anti-pitbull, and their numbers are slanted against the breed. There is no really accurate data on breed statistics, which is one reason the CDC and the AVMA do not recommend using the bite statistics to determine relative dangerousness of any breed. The court also, in their opinion, brings up a case from 1916, which they declare to be a “pit bull”. Since the dog in that case was described as a “bull terrier” (name of a specific breed seen in Budweiser and Target commmercials; quite a popular show breed in the early 19th century), there is no way to say that it was actually a “pit bull”. Could have been, but the information to determine that isn’t available. So that reference is just sensationalism without reason.

    This decision will kill dogs. No two ways about it. No landlord could risk renting to anyone with a dog that might be a pit bull, so most shelter dogs will be unadoptable, and owned dogs will be surrendered when their owners can’t find housing.

  • Ron Miller

    Sarah, I’m not sure this is true. I don’t think establishing propensity was ever that hard in a dog bite case. I’ve talked to a few lawyers about it, no no remember losing a case on this issue.

    I also don’t think you are going to see big changes in how landlords deal with this issue. I can’t imagine many landlords were thinking, “I had no problem with pit bulls because I was not concerned about the liability risk until Tracey v. Solesky.” That risk was staring down the Ms. Tracey in this case long before this new law.”

    Still, I certainly appreciate the latter point. I’m not a big fan of the landlord being responsible in these cases either. What do you think about PROSPECTIVELY requiring a license and liability insurance for people who purchase pit bulls?

    I also think there should be on some level different rules for people who buy dogs as opposed to people who are getting dogs out of shelters. I can’t see the law ever thin slicing on that level – and I’m not sure I could even defend it. But I just see real difference in someone who takes in a dog that needs a home and going out a buying a tough dog so you can feel better about how tough and cool you are.

    Thanks to all who have given thoughtful comments, even those that disagree with me.

  • Jennifer

    This is so wrong. Any dog can be vicious or aggressive. Depends on the home and situation the dog is in. They want to say that Pit Bulls are a bad breed but lets look at some of the most recent “dog attacks” that have made headlines. South Carolina – RETRIEVER MIX mauls and infant while the father slept. This is now a case of parent neglect. Not a case of ban Retrievers. Pennsylvania – Husky kills 2 day old baby. Again they say parent neglect and that the dog was just in a bad situation. My mother had a Shih tzu and as it got older it would bite anyone that got near her except my mom. Dogs can do thing that are not good and that can harm people. Not one specific type of dog ANY type of dog. Why do we single out breeds. What is next are we as a society going to start making laws that apply to only one race because that race may commit more crime? Those crimes may be more violent? This is a backward step for our state.

  • Elle

    “Sarah, I’m not sure this is true. I don’t think establishing propensity was ever that hard in a dog bite case. I’ve talked to a few lawyers about it, no no remember losing a case on this issue.”

    Of course you haven’t, it’s not difficult to manipulate people- judges and juries included- with stereotypes, urban legend, and hype. This court opinion proves that. You’re mistaking judicial outcome for truth. They are not the same thing. Also, the fact that you seem to think that all it takes to prove something to be true or false is to ask your lawyer buddies what they have used in court is ridiculous.

    The “evidence” you quoted here is a perfect example of why your claims about “pit bulls'” aggression are fallacies. As you know, a “pit bull” can be dozens of breeds and thousands of mixed breeds; a Cane Corso is a “pit bull” just as much as an American Pitbull Terrier or a boxer/labrador mix. Saying that “pit bulls” account for more bites than other breeds is akin to saying that Toyotas are in more accidents than Mustangs. Of course they are- one is a collection of many different types of while the latter is only one type.

    You can find a more detailed explanation of why this “proof” of a particular type of dog’s aggression is untrue here-

  • Jake

    I appreciate you covering this court ruling.

    As someone who believes that owners and landlords should be held liable for the actions of dangerous animals, I think this ruling will actually do the opposite of what you think.

    I’ve now read the majority and dissent three times. I’m convinced this ruling will not help personal injury lawyers win any more cases, or receive any additional money for clients injured by pit bulls than they would otherwise under the previous standard.

    The most obvious reason is because the opinion only contains a partial definition for “pit bull.” This is a glaring omission and creates a perfect loophole for any defense attorney to exploit.

    The opinion only references “American Staffordshire Terriers.” However, both the “Staffordshire Bull Terrier” and “American Staffordshire Terrier” are breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and both breeds are commonly referred to as “pit bulls.” Did the majority mean to leave out Staffordshire Bull Terriers?

    In addition, the “American Pit Bull Terrier” is recognized by the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) and United Kennel Club (UKC), but not by the AKC. Did the majority intend to leave out American Pit Bull Terriers from their ruling?

    The opinion also does not define “pit bull cross” or “pit bull mix.” Is an owner or landlord covered under this strict liability standard if a dog has 51% of the characteristics of a “pit bull?” Or 25% Or 60%? Are those characteristics judged by physical appearance? A genetic blood test? Numerous municipalities and states have differing standards on this front and the ruling does not address any of them.

    Without ever taking up the issue of whether or not pit bulls are more predisposed to violence (which I’m happy to address separately), a defense attorney in a trial court will be able to escape this new standard by making the plaintiffs prove that the dog actually is a “pit bull” as defined by this court opinion.

    Similar procedural defenses have been successfully utilized in “pit bull” cases including an administrative law case in Denver in 2009:

    Once all the time and expense is wasted on dueling animal experts, victims will be right back to where they were in the first place under existing common law: if the owner or landlord “had knowledge of [the animal’s] disposition to commit such injury” they can be found liable and a victim can sue for damages.

    If you were hoping this ruling will lead to better outcomes for victims of “pit bull” attacks, I think you’ll be disappointed. I predict this opinion will be overturned or the Maryland General Assembly will have to pass a more clearly defined law.

  • This ruling means one thing for sure, the death for thousands of Pit Bull type dogs in the State of Maryland. Homeowners will force their tenants to “get rid of the Pit Bull”, tenant will surrender the dog to a animal shelter who then will kill the dog. Thank you very much, Maryland Court of Appeals, you ordered the death penalty for thousands of dogs.

  • Anonymous

    A pitbull is not even reconized by the AKC. It represents multiple terriers such as staffordshire bull terriers, america staffordshire terriers, bull terriers, exc. This law is passed by people who are ignorant of the breed and undoubtedly never owned a bully breed. Proud owner of a staffy bull AKA the nanny dog.

  • Jan

    Another case in point: the word “Mankind” is the ultimate oxymoron! They have to have something to hate. If it’s no longer allowed to hate people of a different color skin, they will transfer it to something else; in this case, breeds of canines.

    It’s not just pit bulls they pick on. Try living in the Pacific Northwest and telling your neighbors that your “dogs” are wolf-bred malamutes! You are at risk of them being poisoned in your yard if you fail to patrol your yard before you let them out for their physical needs!

    City councils and state legislatures attempt to draft laws “against” your dogs, who have harmed nobody, and who have repeatedly saved your life, as mine have.

    My wolf-bred malamutes are Service Dogs, yet in one neighboring state, they are at risk, facing a “shoot on sight” law if any law-enforcement officer even suspects that my dog has any wolf in it whatsoever!

    I agree with those of you who protest this monstrous decision taken from the hands of the jury by a high-handed “retired” judge and rail-roaded upon the citizens and innocent dogs of the State of Maryland. This is Racism/Breedism at its ugliest.

    Not saying humans were not treated in this manner in our history, but at least we finally admitted our error and corrected it. With Breedism, we are walking backward!

    Anybody with a brain can watch the programs on about Dogs and learn that selective breeding for aggressive and passive behavior produces aggressive and passive offspring. Therefore, the “sweet, loving, Suzie-type” pit bull-type dog is just as possible as is the “aggressive, most-likely-to-bite-you” pit bull-type dog.

    So wake up, World. Pull your brains on and THINK. Educate yourselves. Learn about the issue from ALL ANGLES, not just the side you are most prejudiced about. And get a life. The life you save may be your own. Or that of a TOTALLY INNOCENT dog.

  • Jenny

    I had a dachshund/chihuahua mix. He bit two people. My father was recently bitten by a dachshund.
    My pit bull: he has never done more than try to lick some one.
    I’m just saying…

  • Jerry

    The more they tighten laws on this subject, the happier I am. You can’t appreciate the danger of these dogs as weapons, until you are their victim.

    Two really “sweet” pitties (“Honest they are the sweetest dogs!” so sayeth the owner) ON LEASH, ripped away from their owner and attacked me and my Collie, in front of our own home. I thought my dog would be dead, but she outsmarted both of them while I lay on the ground after they took me down. She wouldn’t let them near me and they worked together while the owner stood and watched, afraid to get a scratch. All they got were mouths full of fur and my Collie took a good chunk out of one of them just before my neighbor came out and cracked a bat over one of their heads and I was able to emergency-recall my dog into the house. Then the two of them broke away again and tried to go thru the door glass to get to my dog and cat, after which
    I cracked a stone planter over one of their backs. The one whose head got cracked with the bat was still standing, and the owner finally took hold of his collar or I would have cracked his head again. I was a wild-person at this point, and I never remember being that angry in my life. According to the owners of these well-kept dogs, these model-citizen dogs just “snapped”. I had seen them before and the seemed very well-behaved. But if this is what these dogs do, then this is not acceptable and owners are going to have to take the consquences for owning one of them.

    The two dogs were euthanized,but the system made it too difficult and too expensive to sue that owner. I have a friend whose son had 7 surgeries on his face when a neighbor’s “Sweet”pittie attacked him in his own yard. 4 years later, they are broke from all the medical bills and the owner of that dog has managed to drag that lawsuit out continuously. People who are injured by these creatures deserve swift justice not bankruptcy while the owners carry on as usual.

    These dogs are an animal aggressive breed, it’s the nature of their breed, and everybody knows it and needs to start admitting it. People are sick and tired of having to move out of the way when they see them coming. Dogs are supposed to adapt to society, not the other way around. This is the responsibility of the owner, and the only way some will learn this is by losing everything they own, I guess. The problem is, many of them are deadbeats, it seems. These people need to be jailed and their dogs treated as deadly weapons when this kind of thing occurs. Any law that holds them accountable in a painful way is a good law as far as I’m concerned.

    However, Blaming a landlord is about as unfair as it gets. But if it alerts landlords to possibilities, then perhaps landlords will refuse to allow these dogs on their properties, thus making the neigbhorhood safer for everybody else. I rent two homes and pitbulls are strictly prohibited on the properties, along with all the other breeds listed by the insurance industy. I have no intention of paying for someone else’s stupid pet choices. I am thrilled every time a dangerous dog law is tightened. I hope the courts eventually go even further in holding owners accountable.

  • Cynthia

    Hi all.

    I wrote my senior dissertation at vet school on the subject of “Deeds Not Breeds”. I graduated from vet school at over 40 years of age, having practiced law at what now is one of the largest law firms in the country, for 15 years. I breed, raise, train and show Great Danes. Pit Bulls are not inherently dangerous. The cops and animal control people who go out to search for them don’t even know what a “pit bull” is. A few decades ago, the “target” “scary” dog was the German Shepherd. Then it was the Doberman, then the Rottweiler… Then the “pit bull”. Now, actually, it’s the Cane Corso and similar Mastiff breeds.

    The pit bull was our National mascot decades ago. It is terrible people who make intelligent dogs do bad things. We should punish those people, not the innocent dogs.

    Just my opinion.

  • Jen

    I’ve read the comments here with interest. Let me first say, as a 30+-year legal asst/paralegal, I think the Maryland Ct. of Appeals decision was faulty. The justices had no foresight as to what the decision really entailed as far as enforcement and it seems more of a Band-aid to placate the plaintiffs (like most BSL).

    I am a pit mix owner of two dogs. One is a registered therapy dog through Pet Partners. Even in my city where there is no BSL, I am often looked at and treated differently when out with my two dogs, because of decisions like this that are highly publicized along with every incident involving a pit bull, even if one simply jumped on a child with its tail wagging, like dogs will do. The public believes that if the court says the dogs are “inherently dangerous,” well, they must be. So, yes, I take exception to erroneous decisions like this.

    Until society has a firm standard for what a pit bull even is, it is truly unfair. Until society has a standard for measuring ALL dog bites/attacks, it is unfair to focus on a group of dogs.

    I was told my dogs are pit bull mixes, but are they really? And who cares since they are excellent dog citizens and I am an excellent owner? And there are those that ask, why do you want to “own dogs like that?” Well, maybe ask the individuals and children who benefit from my dogs’ therapy work.

    And directly at Jerry: I am very sorry for your trauma, but insert almost any breed of dog into your scenario and it has happened in exactly the same manner. In fact, my agility instructor just told me that a few years ago his small dog was killed by the neighbor’s German shepherd. My elderly Lab-boxer mix was attacked by an English bulldog years ago and kept going for her throat until the owner arrived from across the parking lot. I don’t hate English bulldogs, but the owner sure got an earful about responsible dog ownership!

  • tracey

    I just got a notice of eviction from our appartment due to the fact that we own an American bull dog / staffordshire we have had him for 2 years he has never been agressive toward any of the other dogs in the area we paid the 300$ pet deposit n been paying 25 a month pet rent but they gave us 24 hours to get rid of him after all this then a 30 day eviction notice after that but they had already approved the dog the dog is a sweetheart not agressive at all i can’t spealk for all pit mixes but there has to be something i can do if so plz post in my opinion this is the same as saying a black man is a drug dealer based simply on his race in my experience dogs like people are what ya make em all about how they are raised people should be held accountable fore they’re dog if they can’t raise it or control it they should not have it and like children should never be allowed to roam free we have never taken our dog out without a leash just seems like common sense to me and as for the case they filed bankrupcy fine but they should still be held accountable imo

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