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New Bill Could Overturn Pit Bull Ruling

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Meghan McCorkell joined the Eyewitness News team in July 2011 as a...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s new hope for pit bull owners. A bill being proposed in the Maryland General Assembly could overrule a court ruling calling all pit bulls vicious dogs.

Meghan McCorkell has more on this emergency legislation.

That court ruling made landlords accountable for dogs on their property. Since then, the SPCA alone has seen a 30 percent increase in pit bulls being abandoned by their owners. Now they hope this legislation could stop it.

Some pit bull owners faced a heartbreaking choice.

“We either had to get rid of the dogs or they were going to evict us,” said pit bull owner Joe Weigel.

The ultimatum was made after a Maryland appeals court deemed all pit bulls “inherently dangerous.” The ruling came this spring in response to the attack of a Towson boy in 2007.

Shelters were immediately flooded.

“We have seen more pets given up because of the ruling. Specifically and overall, we’ve also seen more pit bull-type dogs abandoned here at the SPCA,” said Aileen Gabbey, Maryland SPCA.

Animal advocates and pit bull owners have been pleading with lawmakers to take action since the court’s ruling.

“I have never received more email on an issue than I have received from the dog owners,” said Delegate Luiz Simmons.

Now Delegate Luiz Simmons has put together emergency legislation. Under the new bill, if a dog bites, the owner will be liable for knowing the dog is dangerous. But it creates a rebuttable presumption, meaning the owner can present evidence to prove they didn’t know the dog had violent tendencies. The bill also limits the liability of landlords and preserves defenses for dog owners.

“Let’s say someone banged the dog over the head with a 2X4 and the dog bites. Should the owner be liable?” Simmons said.

Now the fight is on in Annapolis to get the emergency bill passed so more dog owners don’t have to part with their best friends.

Simmons says he believes he has strong support in both the House and the Senate for the new legislation. Since it is emergency legislation, if it is passed, the pit bull bill would take effect this June. It will need more votes to be passed under emergency status.

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