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Md. Lawmakers Fail To Agree On Dog Bite Bill; Lawyer Pursues Federal Suit

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Tears and anger from the owners of pit bulls in Maryland after lawmakers fail to reach a compromise on a dog bite bill.

Derek Valcourt explains what happened with the bill and what it now means for some pit bull owners.

There was a lot the House and Senate agreed on, but the devil was in the details. Now some dog owners are worried they’ll be forced to give up their beloved pit bulls.

After a pit bull mauled 10-year-old Dominic Solesky, Maryland’s highest court ruled that pit bulls could be labeled as inherently dangerous, meaning the dogs’ owners and even their landlords could be held liable for any bite.

Some landlords then threatened to evict pit bull owners.

“We’re going to do everything we can,” said Del Luiz Simmons, (D) Montgomery County.

For months, Maryland lawmakers vowed to save the day with a bill that would reverse the high court ruling.

But when the legislative session ended Monday without a deal, pit bull owners were barking mad at the politicians.

“I would like one of those people to have to take the dog from the child and drop it off at the shelter.  And rip that dog, they are family members.  It’s absolutely unacceptable that they could not come to a compromise,” said Megan Pilachowski, pit bull owner.

Both the House and Senate agreed that pit bulls should not be singled out and that landlords shouldn’t be held liable. But where they disagreed was over how easy or hard it should be for the owner of a biting dog to escape financial liability.

With no compromise, landlords are still on the hook and animal rescue groups like the SPCA are already seeing dogs surrendered.

“We do expect that number to be increasing and that’s going to be difficult,” said Tina Regester, Md. SPCA.

“They’ve had a lot of time to compromise,” said Charles Edwards, attorney.

Edwards had hoped he wouldn’t need to pursue his federal lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of the high court’s pit bull decision. But now he’s moving full speed ahead on behalf of pit bull owners.

“Hopefully it will be resolved in a way that the citizens of Maryland will be protected from this law,” Edwards said.

Edwards has also filed an injunction to try to put the high court ruling on hold until a federal court can rule on its constitutionality.

The high court’s ruling only applies to “purebred pit bulls.” Animal advocates say that wording is too vague and confusing.

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