A bill received unanimous approval in Maryland to hold dog owners accountable for injuries caused by their pets. This bill references all dogs, not just pit bulls.
This law will hold dog owners liable if their dog inflicts injury and also gives those owners the right to defend their dog in court. Previously, it was incumbent upon plaintiffs to prove that a dog was dangerous. Now, dog owners will have to prove their dog is NOT dangerous.
The bill overturns a Maryland Court of Appeals decision, Tracey v. Solesky, which arose out of a 2007 incident in which a pit bull mauled a 10-year-old Towson boy. The 2012 decision made owners of pit bulls [and “third parties,” like landlords] automatically liable in the event that their dog bit or injured someone.
Animal rights groups protested the appeals court decision, saying that dogs who had never bitten anyone were being put down. They also argued that the breed-specific language unfairly targeted a group of canines who may not even technically be a “breed.”
The House bill does not contain breed-specific language and does not hold landlords accountable for the actions of a tenant’s dog.
When the bill did not make it during the 2012 August special session but passed without debate now, Del. Joseph F. Vallario (D-Prince George) said, “A little bit of time cures a lot of problems. Hopefully, the dogs won’t be biting anymore. Now they can’t afford to.
The bill is now headed to the Maryland state senate. It is expected to pass.
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