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New Bill Reverses ‘Inherently Dangerous’ Pit Bull Ruling

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PatWarrenWebPhoto Pat Warren
Pat Warren joined the Eyewitness News team in 1992. Pat came to WJZ...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Maryland lawmakers tackle a controversial appeals court ruling on dog bites.

Political reporter Pat Warren has the latest on the legal status of pit bulls in the state.

Pit bull owners who think their dog got a bad reputation in the Court of Appeals will be happy to hear a new law is proposed that doesn’t single them out.

“It’s not breed specific. It applies to all dogs,” said Del. Luiz Simmons, House Judiciary Committee.

The pit bull attack that nearly killed 10-year-old Dominic Solesky became what some saw as an attack on the breed when Maryland’s highest court ruled on a lawsuit filed by Dominic’s parents.

That April 2012 ruling labeled pit bulls as inherently dangerous and held landlords liable for allowing pit bulls on their property.

Pit owners stand in defense of their dogs.

“She’s an angel,” one woman said of her pit bull. “I’m not giving up my dog for nobody.”

“She’s an absolute sweetheart,” said Phillip Smeak about his pit bull. “It’s not the dog. It’s the owner.”

Advocates are relying on lawmakers to take the bite out of the court ruling.

“We are pleased with the compromise bill. It is breed neutral. It does not hold third parties liable,” said an advocate from the Maryland SPCA.

Third party landlords have been forcing owners to give up their pits since the court ruling.

The bill limits liability, allows owners to prove there was no prior evidence of violent behavior and allows for defense of the animal’s behavior.

“The landlord is not going to be liable for the behavior of a tenant’s dog unless the landlord knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities,” said Sen. Brian Frosh, Senate Judicial Proceedings.

The bill has a hearing on Jan. 30.  If approved, the bill will pass as emergency legislation and take effect immediately.

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