The Maryland General Assembly has failed to overturn a court decision from 2012 that declared all pit bulls to be inherently dangerous.
In April of 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in that state, ruled that pit bulls were to be considered inherently dangerous, establishing strict liability of owners of pit bulls who bit anyone. The court went a step further, stating that landlords with tenants with pit bulls could also be held strictly liable.
The ruling created much stir and outrage, especially among dog owners who claim it is unfair to single out any one breed when so many different breeds of dogs have the tendency to bite. Landlords were especially outraged, and many landlords in Maryland communities are trying to protect themselves from strict liability by providing notices to pit bull owners: get rid of your dog, or you are evicted.
After much outrage, the Maryland General Assembly tried to pass a compromise bill that would have overturned the Court of Appeals ruling. The proposed bill would establish strict liability for owners of dogs who bit children under the age of 13. However, owners of dogs that bit children over the age of 13 would have an opportunity to provide evidence that the dog had never shown signs of being dangerous.
However, the Maryland General Assembly was unable to agree on the legislation, and it was not passed. This leaves the law as decided by the Court of Appeals, something many pit bull owners are very upset about. Many have been forced to get rid of their pets.
The ruling applies to purebred pit bull dogs, which include the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. It does not apply to pit bull mixes, as the courts were not prepared to debate what proportion of a dog would have to be pit bull in order to qualify.
Did the Maryland Court of Appeals go too far? Many dog owners think it did, but what about the numerous reports of pit bulls attacking and in some instances even killing children? The recent tragic news of a Georgia girl being killed by the family pit bulls is just the latest reminder that these dogs can be unpredictably dangerous.
If you or a loved one have been attacked by a dog, the attorneys at Kirkendall Dwyer LLP can help. Dog bite attacks can leave serious medical injuries. Please feel free to browse our dog bite information center, and then contact us for a free consultation today.