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Pit Bull Legislation in the Dog Days of August?

If every dog has its day, pit bull owners wonder when the Maryland General Assembly will consider legislation to overturn the Court of Appeals’ decision declaring the breed “inherently dangerous.”

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Strict Liability for Pit Bull Attacks: A Doggone Shame?

In an opinion sure to infuriate pit bull owners and scare landlords, Maryland’s highest court has made owning pit bulls the equivalent of possessing canine TNT.


Landlords, beware.  In the case of Tracey v. Solesky, the Maryland Court of Appeal's opinion imposed strict liability upon pit bull owners for injuries caused by their dogs.

By a vote of 4-3, the Court held that such strict liability extends to "a landlord who has the right and/or opportunity to prohibit such dogs on leased premises."  Reviewed several recent pit bull attacks that have left significant scars on their victims and the law, the four-judge majority did not believe that any dog within this breed could be considered safe. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous."

Although there is no law on the books banning the breed, or making it a crime to own one, the Court handed down "a strict liability standard in respect to the owning, harboring or control of pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls" even if the owner had no knowledge of any otherwise dangerous tendencies of his or her particular pet.

Coming to the defense of the breed, three judges thought their brethren were barking up the wrong tree.  In their dissent, these jurists expressed the view that the "majority opinion delivers an unenlightening and unworkable rule regarding mixed-breed dogs. How much 'pit bull' must there be in a dog to bring it within the strict liability edict? How will that be determined? What rationale exists for any particular percentage of the genetic code to trigger strict liability?"

Which side of the fence are you on?  Should pit bulls be innocent until proven dangerous?  Is this a doggone shame, or was the majority right to hold these dogs on a short legal leash?

You may read the Court's decision here. What do you think?

Tracey v. Solesky
April 26, 2012

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