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July 11, 2012

Maryland Attorney General Confirms that Tracey v. Solesky Decision Regarding Dogs Is Not Yet in Effect

The Humane Society of the United States urges landlords to cease restrictions on pet owners pending new ruling from Court of Appeals

In a turn of events welcomed by The Humane Society of the United States, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General has issued an opinion stating that the controversial Maryland Court of Appeals decision holding that all pit bull and pit bull type dogs are “inherently dangerous” is not yet in effect. The Court of Appeals decision in Tracey v. Solesky, issued two months ago, holds that not just owners of pit bull-type dogs but anyone with the power to control the presence of these dogs is strictly liable for any damages they cause. The Office of the Attorney General issued its statement in response to a request submitted by Maryland Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery.

Learn more about protecting dogs in Maryland »

Reports have increased in recent weeks from Maryland residents being forced to choose between their family pets and their homes, as landlords have worried about liability imposed by Tracey. The imposition of strict liability on parties other than the dog owner is unprecedented, as is the Court’s singling out of one particular type of dogs for this stricter standard.

“With this latest news, we urge landlords and property owners across the state to adhere to their existing leases with dog owning tenants,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The HSUS. “With the ruling suspended for the time being, landlords have no legal basis to evict their tenants who may own ‘pit bull type dogs’. This is fantastic news.”

The Attorney General’s opinion hinges on a Maryland Rule of Procedure (8-605) which provides that any mandate from the Court of Appeals will be stayed pending the Court’s decision on a motion for reconsideration. On May 26, State Farm Insurance Company, a party in the Tracey case, filed a motion asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision in Tracey. Because the Court has not yet ruled on that motion for reconsideration, the ruling in Tracey is stayed.

Read the attorney general's opinion in full »

“After the initial court ruling, confusion reigned. Landlords, fearing new liability concerns, began readying eviction notices to their renters with pit bulls,” said Del. Mizeur. “This opinion is welcomed relief for thousands of Maryland families that should never have to choose between their beloved family pet and their home.It gives us time to pass a legislative remedy to permanently fix this problem,” she concluded.

The Maryland General Assembly may consider this issue this summer if Gov. Martin O’Malley calls a special session. The joint legislative task force appointed to study this issue held a work session on June 26 to discuss the details of potential legislation. If there is no special session, a legislative fix will have to wait until January, making this potential reprieve even more critical.

Media Contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras, 301-721-6440, rcontreras@humanesociety.org

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