ANNAPOLIS - Dog activists say the passage of HB 73 is a step in the right direction of eliminating breed specific discrimination. The bill, which was passed on April 3, reverses the 2012 ruling by the court of appeals which ruled that pit bulls and pit bull breeds were inherently dangerous and landlords were also responsible for the damage caused from dog attacks.
“Passage of this compromise legislation ends this disgraceful era of court sanctioned canine profiling, in which families with pit bull-type dogs were forced to choose between their homes and their beloved pets,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Lawmakers voted against singling out particular breeds and in favor of raising the bar for all dog owners to protect victims of dog bites.”
The lawsuit that inspired the ruling was the Taylor v. Solesky case, in which nine-year-old Dominic Solesky was attacked by his neighbor’s pit bull and suffered damage over most of his body, including a life-threatening bite to Dominic's groin and femoral artery. Solesky was hospitalized for 17 days and spent a year in rehabilitation. The Solesky family filed a lawsuit against the pit bull's owner, who filed for bankruptcy and caused the lawsuit to proceed only against the landlord.
“I don't hate pit bulls or think they should be banned, but if a pit bull mauls a kid who tried to take his bone, it should be lights out,” said writer John Hawkins.
Pit bull activists say the breed is not any more dangerous than any other breed and that the dog’s disposition is based on how the dog is raised. Opponents say the dogs are inherently dangerous and stricter bans should be enacted against the breed. In 1996, pit bulls were banned in Prince George’s County. Other municipalities, including Hagerstown, are looking at breed specific legislation. Pit bulls are legal in Montgomery County but any animal that bites or attacks a person is considered dangerous and is banned in the county.
“Dogs that are aggressive often are the result of poor treatment and choices by their owners and sometimes outright training to be aggressive. Dogs, I’m afraid, are largely more sinned against than sinning themselves,” said Howard White, Director of External Relations Montgomery County Humane Society.
Animal activist organization Maryland Dog Federation has filed a lawsuit against Prince George’s County to remove the pit bull ban. The bill SB 422, which will ban all breed specific legislation, failed to advance in the Maryland General Assembly.