Reporting Derek Valcourt
DUNDALK, Md. (WJZ)—Baltimore County Animal Control has euthanized the pit bull mix dog that bit a little girl on the face this weekend in Dundalk.
Derek Valcourt reports the incident comes as the General Assembly considers toughening the state’s dog bite laws.
What happened to that little girl is a perfect example of why some say Maryland’s laws need to change.
At issue is under what circumstance should dog owners be held liable when their dog attacks.
WJZ cameras were the only ones there as the pit bull mix named Raven was surrendered to Animal Control on Sunday after it bit a 20-month-old girl in the face at a home in the 7200-block of Conely Street.
The girl received several stitches.
Its owner says he was shocked and that the dog had never done anything like this before.
“I’m so shook up over it. I don’t know what to say,” said Mark Southard, dog owner.
Under current Maryland law, dog owners can’t be held responsible for a bite unless their dog has bitten someone at least once before.
But some lawmakers think Maryland should join 35 other states by adopting what’s called strict liability.
“Strict liability says if your dog bites, you are responsible. Simple as that,” said Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore.
But getting lawmakers to agree is not so simple.
Almost everyone in Annapolis wants to reverse last year’s ruling from Maryland’s highest court that labeled purebred pit bulls as inherently dangerous– in turn holding their owners automatically liable for any bite.
“So you’ve got a different rule in effect for attacks by pure bred pit bulls than you do by any other breed. I think you ought to have the same rule in effect for all dog bites,” said Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County.
Frosh helped reach a compromise bill, which does presume all dogs–not just pit bulls–have the potential to bite.
Dog owners can then defend themselves in court by presenting evidence and letting a jury decide whether the dog’s owner should be held responsible for the bite.
But this is where it gets sticky.
Right now the House and Senate committees can’t agree on how much proof needs to be presented in court for the dog owner to defend themselves.
Health officials say it will be up to the family of the little girl bitten in Dundalk to decide whether they want to press criminal charges against the dog’s owner–who is a close family friend.