Dogs in Maryland won a victory earlier this month when Tracey v. Solesky, a disastrous court ruling enacted in 2012, was finally overturned.
The original ruling, issued in April 2012, declared all “pit bulls” as inherently dangerous and held landlords liable for any actions caused by “pit bulls” on their property. On reconsideration in August 2012, a Maryland Court of Appeals stated that the ruling did not apply to mixed breeds, but only “purebred pit bulls”.
Both the original ruling and the “clarification” created huge problems for “bully”-type dogs in Maryland and their owners. Many dogs were automatically ruled as dangerous simply based on what they looked like. This resulted in extensive new requirements for dog owners even if their dogs were well-behaved. Liability concerns caused many landlords to stop allowing any dogs on their properties. Numerous dogs ended up in local shelters.
After two years of consideration, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill that overturning Tracey v. Solesky. The measure was signed by Governor O’Malley on April 8, and the law went into effect immediately. Now, “pit bulls” will not automatically be considered dangerous simply because of their appearance, and landlords will not be held liable because a tenant keeps a “pit bull” on their property.
The new law states that the owner of any dog (regardless of breed) is liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property caused while their dog is running at large unless the loss was caused by someone committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense or if the dog was being teased, tormented, abused or provoked. While it is unclear how some provisions of this law will be implemented, the AKC applauds the General Assembly and Governor O’Malley for enacting this important legislation to overturn this unfair and discriminatory court ruling.
This is not just happening in Maryland. States across the country are continuing to realize that breed-specific legislation just isn’t the answer. New laws have already been passed this year in Utah and South Dakota and bills are still pending in Washington and Missouri.
AKC Government Relations is committed to working with public officials and dog owners to ensure safe, dog-friendly communities. We hope that Maryland – and states across the country – will focus on public education to teach the important message of responsible dog ownership and safety around dogs. Interested in learning more about the programs AKC offers on these important topics? Visit www.akc.org/public_education.
By Jennifer Clark, Manager, Canine Legislation