Judge Rules Banned Service Pit Bull Returned to Disabled Owner

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10.10.13 - Banned Pit Bull Returned

A court ruling in Maryland has allowed a woman’s service dog be returned to her when it was determined that the Americans with Disability Act takes precedence over Prince George’s County’s ban on bully breeds.

This past spring, Daniella Guglieimi was told by animal control officers that she had two days to get rid of her dog. She was partially paralyzed from having polio as a child, and needs Storm to help do basic things, like stand and walk. Storm spent several months being homed with different fosters, during which time Guglieimi fell and injured herself a number of times.

Since 1997, it has been illegal to own or harbor a pit bull that hasn’t been registered with the county before 1996. A 2003 task force determined that the $250,000 spent every year to enforce the ban was “costly and ineffective.” It was recommended that the legislation be repealed and instead put education programs in place to promote responsible ownership, and to have harsher penalties for bad owners. However, the suggestions have been ignored, and family pets have continued to be seized and destroyed.

But the reunion between Guglieimi and Storm is a step in the right direction for pit bull advocates hoping to see breed specific legislation overturned.

“Every disabled person in P.G. County who has a service animal, bona fide, is entitled to keep that dog, whether it’s a pit bull or any other,” said E. Anne Benaroya, executive director of Maryland Animal Law Center and attorney representing Guglieimi. “And that is a big deal.”

Benaroya has now filed papers asking for the county to lift the ban on all pit bulls, not just service dogs. Scott Giacoppo, vice president for external affairs at the Washington Humane Society, sees a “lot of movement” toward ending breed bans. Along with Benaroya, he will be asking the Maryland General Assembly to reconsider the ban during its next session.

“We have to do it like this, baby steps,” he said. “There’s no other way to get it done.”