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Senate Passes Dog Bite Liability Measure

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Christie Ileto joined WJZ's News Team in the fall of 2012. She was...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — After a two-year long fight over who’s liable when a dog attacks in Maryland, a compromise is headed to the governor’s desk. It’s been a controversial issue since a court ruling deemed pit bulls a dangerous breed.

Christie Ileto has the resolution and reaction from those closest to the issue.

There’s relief for dog owners and advocates in Annapolis Wednesday. Lawmakers say owners will be liable if their dog bites innocent victims–unless they can prove they had no way of knowing their dog was dangerous.

It’s a turning point of pit bull owners like Eric Vocke and his dog Peyton.

“It’s liberation for dog owners. It gives us an equal footing with the rest of the breeds and we’re not locked down for owning these dogs,” he said.

In 2012, Maryland’s highest court labeled pit bulls inherently dangerous and held both the owner and landlord responsible following a 2007 pit bull attack that nearly killed 10-year-old Dominic Solesky. Landlords began shying away from renting to tenants with pit bulls.

“It’s your dog. You’re responsible,” said Tony Solesky, Dominic’s father.

Solesky filed suit not only against the dog owner, but the landlord.

“I think when they had strict liability for all dogs and everybody, that was the simplest, least complex thing. I don’t know how it’s going to play out in a practical sense,” Solesky said.

While many pit bull advocates are applauding the passage of this new bill, there are critics arguing that this only helps the dog owner escape responsibility.

For Vocke, it levels the playing field and takes the bite out of a court ruling he says singled out pit bull owners and their dogs.

Senator Delores Kelley was alone in voting against the bill, saying the bill puts the burden on the victim.

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