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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Maryland Pit Bull Legislation Softens Court Ruling

In today's Washington Post, there's an article that details a new Maryland law involving pit bulls and all other breeds, that overturns an Appeals Court ruling from earlier this year. The case stems from the tragic mauling of a 10 year old boy by his neighbor's pit bull. The parents of the boy sued both the dog owner and their landlord, and the Maryland Court of Appeals eventually ruled "that owners of pit bulls are automatically liable for attacks by their dogs because the breed is 'inherently dangerous'". And that has been Maryland law since April 2012.

This is interesting from a legal perspective because in most cases, say of a dog biting or otherwise harming someone, if the injured person files a lawsuit, that plaintiff must prove the full circumstances of the case, including whether there were mitigating events, and all sorts of other legal stuff. And the owner of the dog could appropriately defend himself.  But if a pit bull injured someone in Maryland after the court ruling, the injured person didn't have to prove much of anything-it was "strict liability for pit bull owners, landlords and "third parties", and the dog's owner literally had no defense. As we know, this type of overreaching law regarding pit bulls has not been uncommon in recent years, and causes a flood of folks turning in their beloved pitties to shelters, and in turn, the euthanasia of perfectly good canine companions skyrockets. We say this with all due deference and empathy to anyone injured by a dog not under full control of its owner, and most certainly to this young boy attacked by his neighbor's dog.

But today, the Maryland legislature was expected to announce what appears to be a much more fair modification to the court's ruling: Dog owners will still be held responsible for damage or injury caused by their dogs, "but it would allow them to defend themselves in court instead of automatically being liable. And it would apply to all dog owners, not just owners of pit bulls."

So what do you think about Maryland's new law? Does it make the court ruling more fair, or should certain breeds, because of their immense power to cause physical damage be deemed "inherently dangerous"? Let us know!


1 comments:

Jack Williams said...

Pit bull were documented to attack humans. This is a fairly established fact that it is just reasonable for Maryland to have this specific law.

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