Maryland’s Court of Appeals recent ruling that all pit-bulls are “inherently dangerous” has caused a stir amongst animal adoption agencies both private and public.
As a result the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners have placed a temporary adoption moratorium on all pit bull and pit bull mixed breeds from Animal Services. The moratorium will stay in place until all legal and liability issues can be thoroughly reviewed. Furthermore, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are, for now, banned from Island Dog Park in Stevensville.
In essence the court ruled by 4 to 3 that all pit bulls and pit bull mixes are inherently dangerous and victims of attacks no longer have to show that a dog’s owner knew it had a history of being dangerous to make a claim in court; the victim must show only that the owner or landlord knew a dog was part pit bull.
David MacGlashan, Director of Animal Services said about 50 percent of his adoptable dogs are pit bulls or pit bull mixes. “These dogs will not simply be destroyed as a result of the court’s decision,” said MacGlashan, although like others running shelters he is concerned that renters will be forced to give up their pets and the shelters will quickly reach capacity.
Sarah Bartlett, President of Friends of Kent Island Dog Park, “This breed specific ruling, which is based on ignorance and fear, will be devastating to dogs, owners and communities. There will be an increase in evictions when dog owners are forced to choose between a home and their family pet. There will be an increase in the rescue population and euthanization rates which will span all breeds, not just pits. The devastation of this law will expand socially and financially to reaches unimaginable at this point. My wish is that Governor O’Malley will support legislation to overturn this at special session later this month. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
MacGlashan said he hopes the ruling will eventually be over-turned through new, more encompassing legislation. Unfortunately, he said it is looking like this may not occur until the State’s 2013 General Assembly Session. Once all legal and liability issues have been reviewed and understood, the temporary adoption moratorium will be revisited by the County Commissioner’s.
“Many dog breeds can and do invoke injuries to humans and other animals, when not properly socialized or looked after”. MacGlashan went on to say that “the majority of incidents he has encountered, while Director of Animal Services have come as the result of irresponsible pet ownership”. “I would prefer to see a law that is not breed specific, but rather a law that lends itself to enforcing responsible pet ownership and holds irresponsible owners of all breeds accountable for their animals actions”.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruling distinguishes pit bulls and pit bulls mixed breeds from other kinds of dogs. All pit bulls and Pit-Bull Mixed breeds are to be considered dangerous under this ruling, even if a dog of this breed has shown no prior signs of aggression or has never been involved in any previous incident. The ruling increases the liability that a pit bull or pit-bull mixed breed owner incurs. The ruling also increases liability on a landlord that has allowed a tenant to own a pit bull or pit bull mixed breed or who even has had knowledge of a tenant having a pit bull or pit bull mixed breed on a leased property. Although the ruling only stated increased liability on owners and landlords, it has been determined to have added additional liability to animal adoption organizations and potentially veterinarians and private kennel businesses. The premise for animal adoption organizations additional liability, is that per the court’s ruling, an adopting agency could be held liable for knowingly have placed in the community an animal that has, “by law”, been pre-determined as inherently dangerous. Many groups and individuals have lobbied for Governor O’Malley, State Senators and State Delegates to quickly introduce new legislation that would override the recent Maryland Court of Appeals decision, deeming all pit bulls dangerous. The request is being made for this new legislation to be introduced in the upcoming May 14th special session. The legislation being requested is to be based on a dog’s behavior, not the dog’s breed. However, the chance of getting new legislation introduced in the special session does not look promising, as Governor O’Malley has stated that the special session is for budget related purposes only.