|I am the Majority|
In April 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals decision, Tracey v Solesky, modified the common law in Maryland regarding liability for bites attributed to dogs the Court alternately referred to as “pit bull”, “pit bull mix” or “cross-bred pit bull mix”. The decision establishes a strict liability standard for persons who own, harbor or control “pit bull,” “pit bull mix” or “cross-bred pit bull mix” dogs, when a dog so labeled injures a person.
In May 2012: Animal Farm Foundation was invited to address the Maryland Sate Legislative Task Force to discuss the Tracey v Solesky ruling. Additionally, Animal Farm Foundation visited with Maryland community advocates, rescues and shelters, dog owners, and attorneys to provide information and to empower Maryland residents to defend their homes and families against the Tracey v Solesky ruling. A Motion for Reconsideration was filed by State Farm on behalf of the Tracey family. This motion is currently pending.
July 2012: the Office of the Attorney General issued an opinion in response to a request by Delegate Mizeur stating that the recent Court of Appeals ruling that declares pit bull breeds as "inherently dangerous" is stayed under a motion of reconsideration.
August 2012: the Maryland State Legislature considered a bill during a special session that would undo the recent Tracey v Solesky ruling and sought to remove landlord liability for dog bites. The measure sought to put liability for bites, by any type of dog, on their owners rather than targeting dogs by breed. While both the House and Senate agreed that "pit bull" dogs, their families, and landlords should not be unfairly discriminated against, they failed to agree on the specifics of the bill and deadlocked. The Court of Appeals ruling continues to be stayed (not active) pending the court's decision on a Motion for Reconsideration in the case, which will most likely occur during the regular session in January 2013. Additionally, on August 21st, the court limited the original ruling application to “purebred pit bull” dogs only, cancelling its former reference to “cross breeds”.
September 2012: The Humane Society of the United States has launched a helpline for Maryland residents. Please call the Protect Maryland's Dogs Helpline for assistance: 1-855-MDDOGS1
March 2013: MD legislature is working to pass compromise legislation that is breed-neutral and sets reasonable standards for dog owners and victims in dog bite cases.
April 2013: A House-Senate conference committee came up with a compromise bill, which the Senate unanimously approved on 4/8.
Both the Senate and the House agreed that “pit bull” dogs should not be discriminated against, but the two branches of government could not agree with each other on how to stop the tragic fallout from the 2012 MD Court of Appeals decision. On 4/9, in the final legislative session of 2013, the two branches of the Maryland State Assembly failed to agree upon the terms of a bill that would abrogate that ruling. In the eleventh hour, insurance lobbyists sought to kill the proposed solution. The compromise bill, though unanimously passed by the Maryland Senate, was not voted on by the Maryland House of Delegates.
That bill would have held any dog owner and their landlord responsible if their dog attacks someone under 13, so called "strict liability." For victims 13-years-of-age or older, the liability standard would be different, and the dog owner could prove to a jury that they are not responsible for a dog bite. It would have held all dog owners equally accountable, regardless of the breed of dog.
The lack of action on this bill leaves the standard set by the Maryland Court of Appeals decision in place.
January 2014: The 2014 legislative session has begun and legislation addressing the impacts of this Court of Appeals ruling is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on January 23rd. The proposed legislation, House Bill 73, makes dog owners, not landlords, responsible for injuries caused by their dogs. Further information from Protect Maryland Dogs (HSUS) is available here.
APRIL 8th, 2014: Maryland's Governor O'Malley signed HB 73/SB 247, finalizing the House of Delegates approval of the breed neutral dog bite liability legislation that abrogates the 2012 Court of Appeals ruling in Tracey v. Solesky, which had imposed breed specific liability on dog owners, custodians, and landlords. The new law equally protects all Maryland citizens from negligent and reckless dog owners, regardless of the type of dog involved in an incident. Congratulations Maryland!
Advocates parade in support of pit bulls by Annys Shin for the Washington Post