The Maryland legislature has created a task force to review a state Court of Appeals ruling that labeled pit bulls an “inherently dangerous” dog breed.
Five members from each chamber were selected to scrutinize the April ruling that victims of pit bull attacks no longer have to prove they knew the dog was dangerous, only that the owner knew the dog was a pit bull or pit bull mix.
The task force is directed to scrutinize “the common law of Maryland, the decision, the common law and statutes in other states, the viability and definition of breed-specific standards in Maryland, a dog owner or landlord’s ability to secure property insurance, as well as existing breed-specific prohibitions in local jurisdictions in Maryland.”
“This decision will have profound effects on dogs, dog owners, property owners, tenants and landlords, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), said in a May 30 letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
Under the ruling in a case in which a Towson child suffered life-threatening injuries when mauled in 2007, an attack victim would not need to prove that a pit bull has a history of bites before making a claim.
The 4-3 appeals court decision was assailed by animal rights advocates and pit bull owners who insist that a particular breed should not be singled out for different treatment under the law.
Legal analysts said the ruling makes it easier to hold pit bull owners liable for damages following bites or attacks, even if the dogs have no history of such behavior. Critics of the ruling said the decision could result in widespread abandonment, or destruction, of pit bulls to avoid legal liability. In the 2007 case, the victim’s family sued the dog owner’s landlord, but a judge dismissed the case, ruling there had been no evidence of neglect. The Court of Special Appeals overturned the ruling and it was upheld by the Court of Appeals.