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Lawmakers To Deliberate On Court’s Pit Bull Ruling During Special Session

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– Another hot-button issue is being tackled by lawmakers during the special session. A Senate panel has passed a bill agreeing to discuss the ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals declaring pit bulls as “inherently dangerous”.

Mike Hellgren has more on the battle between pit bull owners and Maryland’s highest court.

A lot of people were angry about the court ruling and they called on lawmakers for a fix. But that fix is proving difficult to come by.

Dog owners stormed Annapolis demanding lawmakers pass a bill to overturn a landmark ruling from Maryland’s highest court singling out pit bulls as an “inherently dangerous” breed and making their owners, landlords and even businesses like veterinary clinics responsible if someone is bitten on their property.

“It hurts somebody, I’m responsible for it. That’s the way it ought to be.”

They say landlords now won’t rent to those with pit bulls and many are abandoning their dogs at shelters.

“We just can’t keep up with the amount that we’re taking in,” Lisa Morabito of the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) said.

The ruling stems from the case of Dominic Solesky, a little boy who almost died after a pit bull attacked him in Towson. His father first sued the dog’s owner who declared bankruptcy and then sued his landlord. He believes that if landlords and insurers are off the hook, victims could be left with no recourse to get money to pay huge medical bills.

“I applaud the ruling of the court and I believe it is not unprecedented. I think that the threat is unprecedented,” Anthony Solesky, Dominic Solesky’s father, said.

The bill under consideration would take away a landlord’s liability and make owners of all dogs– regardless of breed, not just pit bulls– responsible for their dog’s actions.

“No person wants a child or any human being to be hurt by an animal,” Katie Flory of the SPCA said. “But we also think it is very important to judge the animal by the behavior and not by the breed.”

Before the ruling, a dog had to have bitten before, had to have a proven history of being dangerous before an owner was held responsible. Some believe the state should go back to that stand.

“We will fix the situation,” Del. Michael Smigel ( R-Eastern Shore) said. It’s just whether or not we fix it by coming back and doing things properly or make the giant leap now.”

The Maryland Insurance Administration has been tracking the fallout from this decision and at least several families have not had their homeowners insurance renewed because of it.

There are also concerns that insurers could exclude any homes with dogs if the new legislation passes. More hearings will take place on Friday.

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