Maryland Government Labels Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous

In a 4-3 decision, Maryland’s highest court has ruled that pit bulls are “inherently dangerous.”

In a 4-3 decision, Maryland’s highest court has ruled that owners of pit bulls, or mixed breed pit bulls, and landlords who allow tenants to have such dogs are strictly liable for damages resulting from the dog’s attack. The decision in Tracey v. Solesky modifies Maryland common law relating to pit bull attacks.

It is no longer necessary in these cases to prove that a pit bull is dangerous. The presence of the animal on the premises is enough to establish a case for damages.

“This decision is about protecting the victims of pit bull attacks,” said Kevin Dunne, the Ober|Kaler attorney who represented the Soleskys. “It is anti-pit bull owners who do not prevent their dog from attacking and viciously injuring a child in Maryland.”

The victim in this case is Dominic Solesky, a 10-year-old boy who in 2007 was mauled by a pit bull. Solesky was seriously injured in the attack, requiring five hours of surgery, including repair of his severed femoral artery. He spent seventeen days in the pediatric intensive care unit, had additional surgeries, and spent a year in rehabilitation.

In 2008, Dominic’s parents filed a complaint seeking money damages against the dog’s owners and their landlord, alleging negligence and strict liability. The dog’s owners subsequently declared bankruptcy.  At trial, the court ruled that there was insufficient evidence that the landlord knew of the vicious nature of the dog. In 2011, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision.  The landlord’s insurer appealed to Maryland’s highest court, and that court issued its opinion on April 26, 2012.

In modifying Maryland common law of liability relating to attacks by pit bulls and pit bull-mixes, the Court of Appeals concludes that “…Because of its aggressive and vicious nature…pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous…” and goes on to “…impose greater duties by reducing the standards necessary to hold owners and others liable for the attacks of their pit bulls.”

Pit bull proponents are up in arms over the decision, which could find Maryland’s pit bull owners facing eviction notices from nervous landlords. The Humane Society of the United States has offered to work with Maryland dog advocates and members of the legislature to develop rational, science-based dangerous dog policies for the state out of concern for the state’s pit bull population.

Betsy McFarland, vice president of The Humane Society of the United States’ companion animals department, issued the following statement:

“In addition to our general concerns about the issues with breed-specific public policies, we believe that the court overstepped its authority. The decision acknowledged it was ‘modifying the Maryland common law of liability.’ A seismic shift in Maryland law of this nature should be undertaken by the legislature, not judges. The legislature should conduct appropriate fact-finding and hearings, consider the available science, and make a measured, non-emotional decision on this important policy issue.

We encourage advocates to call their state legislators to respectfully voice their concerns, and urge them to work with advocates on legislation in the next session that provides rational, science-based dangerous dog policies for the state. The Humane Society of the United States’ companion animals department is in communication with shelters and rescues, and will be looking for ways to support them as they consider the ramifications of this decision.”

Cheryl Bernard Smith of the Maryland SPCA urges lawmakers to reconsider, saying “Every animal is an individual, so to say that all pit bulls are inherently dangerous is absolutely untrue.”


Tips for renters with pit bulls:

  • Renters who currently own a pit bull or pit bull mix should contact attorneys licensed in Maryland with any questions or concerns regarding their specific situations.
  • In general, a landlord cannot change a lease to ban pit bulls before the lease term expires. A lease is a contract, and under Maryland law the landlord may not change the terms of the lease without your consent for the remainder of the lease term. If your lease has an automatic renewal clause, the landlord must notify you of a rent increase or any other change with enough notice for you to decide whether you want to renew or not. If your lease does not automatically renew, you should be sure to thoroughly read the new lease you will sign for any prohibition against dogs that may constitute a pit bull.
  • In general, if a tenant breaches the terms of a lease agreement, a landlord may evict him or her. However, the landlord must go to court and obtain an eviction judgment first.  Also, state law requires the landlord to first give the tenant one month’s advance notice that he is ending the lease and the reason why. However, if the breach of lease involves tenant behavior that constitutes a danger to other people or property, the landlord must only give 14 days advance notice. Therefore, if a tenant with a pit bull or pit bull mix has a lease that is about to expire, he or she should review the new lease for any changes, as there may be a short time frame in which to make moving arrangements.
  • If a tenant does not have a written lease or does not know whether it’s in effect, he or she should be aware that a landlord is required to use a written lease if the tenancy is going to be for a year or longer, or if the landlord owns five or more rental units in the State.  If a lease is to last more than a year, it must be written to be enforceable. If you have an oral agreement your landlord must still give proper written notice before any changes to the terms of an oral lease

276 thoughts on “Maryland Government Labels Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous

  1. The bottom line is that people have to take on the responsibility that comes with ownership of certain breeds. My personal opinion is that any puppy, no matter the breed, raised in a loving environment will probably never have problems like this. On the other hand,,,,I think we all know that some people choose aggressive breeds because of those traits, for safety and security reasons. In cases like that,,,you have to bear responsibility for your dog’s behavior.

    1. You’re absolutely correct. Some people do select a breed based on a reputation for aggression, and this is often where attacks occur. The responsibility should fall solely onto the shoulders of the negligent owner that fails their dog utterly.

      On the other hand, breeding issues can result in an aggressive dog. Some backyard breeders purposefully select aggressive dogs to breed, which is one reason for the issue with Pitbulls at the moment. Likewise, I’ve personally seen a Puppy Mill-bred Golden Retriever exhibit aggression on the same level, even though he was raised with love and care. Most dogs are not so genetically messed up, though. A good look at the ACTUAL facts of attacks almost always reveal a problem owner.

      1. In the abc news video it stated that in 13 yrs there were 7 Pit Bull attacks. I’m wondering if abc bothered to do any research on how many attacks were reported on all breeds in 13 yrs? That seems like a ridiculous stat aimed to single out Pit Bulls without reporting on attacks by all breeds, not just Pit Bulls. I’m assuming abc will do a follow up on this, no?
        Erika is exactly right in that there’s a real problem with these ‘backyard’ breeders that intentionally breed these dogs for aggression with no regard whatsoever for the dogs, it’s all about how much money they can make selling them to thugs like the one whose picture was on this very site holding two Pits that had huge log chains on them.

        1. 7 attacks by a breed type (we know many breeds described falsely as pit bulls) in 13 years is actually very low, considering high number of dogs in general populated areas, and general human populated areas as its generally human behavior and choices that cause issues.

          Purebred textbook breeds of all types are commonly seen and reported as pitties when humans make mistakes and a dog bite is the result.

          I totally agree with you Teresa and Ericka as the key causative factor comes from the humans involved.
          Breeding the wrong dogs, for aggression for example, then wrong humans buying and training resultant pups, is where the problem happens.

          Not to mention irresponsible people not training said dogs or often abusive training for aggression, to be protection dogs without basic obedience training, then leaving the dog wandering, when it has no way to know what’s expected of it.

          Same dog trained and treated with love and respect would be a loving reliable family member.

          Proud to love Pits, and all breeds, owned by cats

        2. ABC couldn’t do the proper research to save their life. They are basically ignorant fear mongers who like to add lies.

          1. Meg sadly that’s true unfortunately of all media. Years ago when reporting a dog bite, media from any source, took a factual slant, verifying all factors, from breed, people involved, past history of the dog or dogs, and owner or owners., factored in cause of bite, and we’re true to facts, now someone says I was bitten and next word is Pitbull even when it is nothing resembling the breed types.

    2. The bottom line is that most people don’t know what they are talking about. That breed is no different than any other is treated lovingly and kindly and trained properly. Stop listening to propaganda stories on the news ( who just love to spread fear on everything ), and start caring about the animals. The state of Maryland is clueless and corrupt.

  2. the lawmakers are asses. lock up the people who breed them aggressive and train them aggressive. enforce stronger penalties.

  3. That’s just not right. When are people going to learn it’s not the animal that’s a menace, it’s the person who owns and negatively trains/neglects the animal that is the menace?

  4. they say pitties are a menace and outlaw them…haha but what do they do about the child molesters..or rapists etc…

  5. People with tiny minds are inherently dangerous. And apparently there are a lot of them in MD’s legal profession. Knuckleheaded, irresponsible caretakers are to blame for misdeeds, not the breed itself. Putzballs.

  6. They are incredibly misinformed if that is their opinion. Take the blinders off and do the research…then make an intelligent decision for all concerned. Band the abuser…not the abused!

  7. People are a menace to society…not any breed of dog! Shame on Maryland…trying to label a breed of dog because you’re too lazy to deal with the people who mistreat that breed. Wonder how many pit bulls have died because of humans?

  8. first of all Maryland is not saying they’re a menace – but they are saying that they are inherently dangerous. And in that case, they need to list every dog – not just pit bulls. Pit bulls are NOT the problem – it’s the people who own them. Every dog breed, if not properly trained/supervised can be dangerous to somebody. I hope people can stand up and get this turned around before it begins to spread.

  9. No they are not!!! It’s the humans that are dangerous!! Stop holding the dogs responsible for the idiots that raise them!!! Hold the humans accountable for the dogs actions and save the beautiful pits from abuse!!! We do the same for children who are abused!!!

  10. It is not the dog’s fault it is the people who own these animals and they are not anymore dangerous than any other dog so if the government is going to label these dogs as dangerous, maybe they should label the owners who own them “dangerous”

  11. The law does not allow us to look at a person who would bully his dog and say “you are not welcome”, so the dog who is likely to be tormented is the focus. I think we will never eradicate bullies from our society when our “solutions” are so screwed.

  12. Are all lawmakers idiots (not to mention just plain WRONG in this case)? Why are they spending time on this and NOT on the economy and jobs?

  13. fuck that!!! i volunteer and work with them…. this is complete and utter bullshit.. arrogance kills me, and over populates this country. pisses me off. they are wonderful dogs

  14. They are wrong, pit bulls are not dangerous, its the idiots that own these fine animals that are dangerous!!!

  15. Stupid people who are given power are inherently dangerous. But then again, no one’s gonna put that into law.

  16. Ignorant people are a menace to society. Pit bulls aren’t born vicious, they are trained by people to be aggressive.

  17. This is a shame….shame on society for creating this problem, by using them to fight! They are great dogs…it’s people you should punish!

  18. again, this proves that only too often are we ruled by a bunch of utter morons who have absolutely NO CLUE and what’s worse, don’t even have the common decency to inform themselves on the subject from more knowledgeable people. PLONKERS!!!

  19. That’s a load of crap! The only menace to society is the rotten trash that abuses the dogs to the point of making them dangerous. Instead of doing the easy thing by getting rid of the dogs, why not get rid of the rotten trash like Mike Vick which is the real problem.

  20. Proof, once again, that ignorance comes in all packages. I say we form an army of people, all dress in costume as pit bulls, bring our dogs with us, have Pit Bull the entertainer lead the parade, and show up for a little trick or treatin on Halloween. God, do I know how to have fun, or what???

  21. As a board member of a no-kill shelter, and an owner of a cageless boarding facility, I am disappointed that Maryland’s highest court has four idiots on it. We rescue quite a few Pits, and we have many Pits that come to our boarding facility. It’s usually not about the dog, it’s about the owner, or about the unsupervised child that would be bitten by any dog. It’s also about the media perpetuating the myth. I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that if a dog was 90 percent Chihuahua and 10 percent Pit, it would be labeled a Pit mix.

  22. What the lawmakers should have said was THAT HUMANS are a menace to society. I believe more people have been killed and injured by other humans then by all animals combined through out history. Just saying.

  23. If these lawmakers would start dealing with the people who abuse animals this problem could be corrected! They are never going to solve anything because they are not dealing with the ROOT of the problem which is people who abuse and misuse animals and then get by with it. Wake Up you lawmakers! Use some common sense. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that there is something so wrong with this pattern!

  24. This is so untrue if they are raised properly from a puppy they are the sweetest most gentle dog you could own. It’s well known that other breeds have faced the same ignorance and there has to be an alternative, even pit bulls who are rescued from fighting can be good pets.They need to put their efforts into stopping the people who are abusing them and stop blaming the breed !!!

  25. So, if a dogo argentino, preso canario, german shepherd, rotweiller, doberman, etc. (or any other big, strong dog) mauls someone, but since the breed is not considered “inherently” dangerous, there is NO STRICT LIABILITY of the owners???? When will people understand that the ONLY inherently dangerous animals that exist are humans, as the species is capable of being violent just for sport?

  26. I find it very interesting that there are hundreds of pit bulls in foster homes, maybe thousands, maybe even more. This breed has been labeled as dangerous and aggressive. Yet people continue to foster these dogs. They foster these dogs, dogs with all kinds of different backgrounds. Troubled dogs, injured dogs. They take them into their homes, into their families with their other pets, with their children. And how often do we hear about these foster dogs hurting someone? Countless numbers of pit bulls in foster homes all over the country. So IF this breed is so dangerous, so aggressive then how is it so many are successfully fostered and adopted without incidence? Bad dogs are made, not born.

  27. Once they establish a precedent it opens the door for going after every breed of dog for whatever reason some politician may not like them.

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