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House & Senate Continue To Debate Dog Bite Bill

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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’s House and Senate remain at odds over a dog bite bill intended to neutralize a court ruling that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

Political reporter Pat Warren has the latest developments.

The idea is this: all dogs should be regarded as equally dangerous. The question is liability in the event that a dog bites someone. In the case of Dominic Solensky, the Court of Appeals ruled pit bulls inherently dangerous and owners and landlords should both be held liable. Efforts to eliminate the breed-specific designation seem to have hit a wall in Annapolis, leaving dog owners in limbo.

“You’re the owner, you’re responsible. It’s common sense,” said one person.

“You’re a dog owner. You should take responsibility for your dog,” said another.

Seems simple, but it’s not. The House bill gives owners a chance to prove they didn’t know the dog was dangerous with a preponderance of evidence. The Senate holds owners to a higher standard of clear and convincing evidence.

“We’re going to do everything we can for the dog owners, for the victims, for the landlords to come up with a fair solution,” said Delegate Luiz Simmons.

But Simmons and Senator Bryan Frosh, who thought they had reached a compromise, are now at odds. The House Judiciary Committee heard appeals for a resolution Wednesday.

“No matter what you feel about the state of liability, these folks need a place to live,” said Ron Wineholt, Apartment and Office Building Association.

Unless the legislature acts, pit bull owners who rent may have to choose between their dogs and their homes.

“We need you very urgently to get to conference and please work it out,” Wineholt said.

Dog owners are anxiously awaiting the outcome. The General Assembly ends this session on April 8.

Legislative leaders expect to work out their differences in a conference committee.

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