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August 15, 2012

The HSUS Disappointed in Md. General Assembly’s Failure to Remedy Impacts of Dog Ruling

Lawmakers deny relief for tens of thousands of Marylanders during special session

The Humane Society of the United States expresses disappointment in the Maryland General Assembly for failing to take definitive action to relieve the uncertainty that has faced dog owners, landlords, property owners, veterinary clinics and other small businesses since the controversial Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that pit bull type dogs are “inherently dangerous” in late April. The Senate and House of Delegates passed separate bills seeking to clarify the situation for dog owners, but failed to pass a final bill before the special session adjourned this week.

As a result of the Court of Appeals decision, animal shelters braced for an influx of pit bull type dogs, landlords sent warning notices to renters with pit bull type dogs, condo associations considered changing their policies, and local governments scrambled to protect themselves from liability at city dog parks and other public spaces. The ruling has forced many Maryland residents to choose between their homes and their beloved pets, and has forced landlords and property managers to try to determine whether dogs are pit bulls or not. With the General Assembly’s inaction, these impacts are expected to multiply.

“It is extremely disappointing that Maryland lawmakers failed to pass even a stop-gap measure relieving the emergency situation people are facing across the state,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The HSUS. “Due to their inaction, thousands of Maryland families may be forced to choose either their dogs or their homes in the next four months, until the General Assembly comes back in January.”

Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, and Delegate Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore City, introduced Senate Bill 2/House Bill 2 after the governor appointed a joint legislative task force in May to study the court ruling and make recommendations to the General Assembly. This legislation would have reversed the court’s breed-specific rule, removed the strict liability imposed on landlords and other third parties, and held all dog owners responsible if their dog injures someone while it is running at large, regardless of breed or type of dog.

The Maryland Attorney General has found that the ruling is not in effect while a motion requesting the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision is still pending. It is possible that the court may meet as soon as this week to act on the motion. With no action taken during this special session, the next opportunity for lawmakers to act on this issue won’t be until the General Assembly convenes its regular session in January 2013. The HSUS urges lawmakers to pass comprehensive legislation during the 2013 regular session not only to address dog bite liability but also put in place measures to prevent dog bites in the first place.

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

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