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March 14, 2013

Md. Legislature Urged to Pass Bill Addressing Impacts of Pit Bull Ruling

With only a few weeks remaining before the Maryland legislature ends its 2013 session, The Humane Society of the United States is urging lawmakers to pass legislation introduced in response to a 2012 Court of Appeals decision that forced many Maryland dog owners to choose between their pets and their homes. The breed-neutral legislation sets reasonable standards for dog owners and victims in dog bite cases, and no longer discriminates against pit bulls.

Leaders in the House of Delegates and the Senate agreed to this compromise legislation in January after reaching a stalemate during the August special session over details for dog owner liability. The Senate unanimously passed the bill, S.B. 160, today. The House passed similar legislation on February 21. However, an amendment added to the Senate bill in committee has created some uncertainty about the future of the compromise legislation.

“Dog owners across the state are counting on lawmakers to address the poor policy established by the court’s decision,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The HSUS. “Although some differences remain, we are confident that leaders in the House and Senate will find common ground and provide relief to thousands of Marylanders impacted by this ruling.”

S.B. 160 now will be sent to the House, which will consider the amendments made by the Senate. If the changes are rejected, members from both chambers will convene in a conference committee to work out a compromise.

Over the last year, landlords have sent warning notices to renters with pit bull-type dogs. Condominium associations and homeowner’s associations have considered changing their policies. Local governments have scrambled to address liability at city dog parks and other public spaces, and animal shelters have braced for an influx of pit bull-type dogs. The HSUS has been collaborating with animal protection organizations and advocates across the state to fight the unintended consequences of this ruling and provide resources to help people stay in their homes and keep their pets.

Singling out a particular breed or type of dog has repeatedly been proven to be ineffective at curbing dog bites because breed alone is not predictive of whether a dog may pose a danger. A dog’s propensity to bite is a product of several factors primarily under the owner’s control, including early socialization, whether the dog is spayed or neutered and whether the dog is isolated or chained.

For more information about the ruling, visit humanesociety.org/protectmddogs.

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

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