Reporting Vic Carter
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Pit bulls: family pets or dangerous dogs? The showdown over how Maryland treats these animals and their owners continues.
There’s enough emotion and anger to go around but for the first time, Vic Carter reveals a possible solution to the crisis.
Inherently dangerous or loving pets? The standoff over pit bulls in Maryland heats up with a violent attack on two little boys.
“I was very scared that it was going to be over,” said Scotty Mason.
A pit bull broke out of its cage and attacked Scotty Mason, who was afraid he was going to die. While the pit bull’s owner tried to help, it escaped again, tearing into Scotty’s friend, Dominic Solesky.
“It pretty much tackled me and bit me on the face,” Solesky said. “I tried to push it off and it started throwing me around the alley.”
For the first time, they’re telling their story to WJZ.
“He kept asking me if he was going to die. I assured him that he was not, even though I was very afraid that he was going to,” said Dominic’s mother, Irene Solesky.
It has been five years since the evening that both boys nearly lost their lives. They remain at the center of a debate over the breed of dog some people love but others hate.
The firestorm over pit bulls ignited after the Soleskys sued not only the pit bull’s owner, but his landlord, too.
“I’ve never cared for this breed as a domestic pet and so once one of them attacked my child, I had to investigate,” said Dominic’s father, Tony Solesky.
In a recent ruling, the Court of Appeals labeled pit bulls inherently dangerous and held both owner and landlord responsible.
“They let these people in here and rent and don’t take any responsibility for them,” Tony Solesky said.
Immediately, landlords moved to protect themselves by sending out eviction notices for people who wouldn’t get rid of their pit bulls. It’s an agonizing ultimatum for people like Philip Smeak.
“It’s hard that this ruling comes out and it affects people like me. I don’t fight, I don’t do any of that dumb stuff with these dogs. I love them,” Smeak said.
Pit bull owners and landlords find themselves in a stalemate. State Senator Lisa Gladden is trying to come up with a compromise.
“We need to give direction to the dog owners. We don’t want them to take the dogs to the pound [or] to the SPCA and say I can’t keep them ’cause I got to have a place to live,” Gladden said.
In January, Maryland’s lawmakers will try to settle this showdown over pit bulls with a new law.
“I kind of like what we’ve got crafted,” Gladden said. “What the new law says is no liability for the landlord and the landlords don’t have to make the owners make a choice between a family member and a place to live. We’ve just got to get it passed next session.”
But some pit bull owners aren’t waiting for lawmakers to act. Jeanine Gangi and her neighbors have filed suit, arguing the court’s decision is unconstitutional.
“If my girls are taken away from me, my world will be destroyed,” Gangi said.
“Am I taking away from those that have been attacked by them? No, I’m not and I feel horrible that that’s happened but to label my dog that way because of an attack that happened in Towson in 2007…I don’t know,” Smeak said.
Dominic Solesky wants people to understand.
“They think we’re trying to get pit bulls outlawed but we’re really trying to save kids from getting attacked by pit bulls like I did,” he said.
The state task force studying the court decision on pit bulls plans to meet again to try to work out a compromise before the General Assembly session begins in January.