Maryland Court Considers Removing Breed-Specific Legislation Against Pit Bulls

Animal advocates are protesting a ruling that was passed by a Maryland court, which deems all pit bulls and pit bull mixes to be dangerous. Lawmakers are now considering having the bill overturned during a special session to take place this week.

A Behaviour and Training Coordinator working with Posey, a 5-year-old pit bull mix

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman, Brian Frosh, stated that the circulated draft bill would make amendments to the current ruling. The amendments include making all owners of any breed legally responsible for bites.

Back in April, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that owners and landlords who allow tenants to have pit bulls and pit bull mixes are at a greater liability. The ruling came in response to a 2007 attack on a Towson, Maryland boy.

The ruling was met with outrage by pet owners and animal rights groups. Both parties stated that the decision unfairly targets a specific breed when the laws should only be based on a dog’s behaviour.

“Dogs should be judged on their behavior not their breed,” said Frank Branchini, a board member for Maryland Votes for Animals, a political action committee organizing a rally scheduled Thursday to persuade legislators to approve the measure.

The newly proposed bill will also amend the liability that was extended to landlords.

Currently, residential and business landlords, including groomers, trainers, veterinarians and pet stores, are all under strict liability.

Branchini argues that only the dog’s owner should be held responsible in the event of an attack.

Prior to the ruling that came about in April, victims of a dog attack who wanted to file a lawsuit had to prove that the dog’s owner knew the dog had a history of being aggressive. This was often called the “one-bit rule”.

Executive director of the Maryland SPCA, Aileen Gabbey, stated that they have received hundreds of calls from concerned pet owners regarding the court’s current ruling.

Not only does the court’s decision unfairly target a single breed, there is no clear definition of a pit bull breed. This makes it very difficult for even the most experienced shelter workers to correctly identify the dog.

“What we don’t want is breed specific legislation,” said Gabbey. “We don’t know exactly what they are considering.”

The special session begins on Thursday.