Animal Law

Pit-bull owners would get same legal protections as other dog owners under Maryland bill

Lawmakers in Maryland are considering a bill that would overturn a 2012 decision that found pit bulls are inherently dangerous and their owners are strictly liable for attacks by the dogs.

The State and House have passed differing versions of the bill, and they will have to pass a single bill before the governor can consider it, the Washington Post reports. The legislation would create a presumption that all dog owners are liable for bites by their pets, no matter what breed. The presumption could be overcome with proof the pet had been docile before the attack.

Supporters of the bill say it preserves the presumption of liability and extends it to all breeds. Critics say it will be easy for dog owners to prove their animals were previously docile.

The 2012 decision, Tracey v. Solesky, found that pit bulls and pit bull mixes are inherently dangerous. The court later modified the ruling so it applied only to purebred pit bulls. Groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had protested the decision, holding rallies and testifying against it in hearings.

Kevin Dunne represented the family whose 10-year-old son was mauled by a pit bull in the Solesky case. “Everyone wants to talk about the dog first,” he told the Post, “more than they do about the victims who are mauled or dead.”

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