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Dog owner liability in Maryland

Good dog

A long awaited legislative fix to the Tracy v. Solesky decision is close to becoming law. For those who don't know, an appeals court hearing a matter of a child attacked by a dog made the statement that pit bull dogs are inherently dangerous. The decision in the case was just as bizarre. It found that a landlord could not only be found liable for the behavior of his tenant's dog, it found so even if the dog is off the landlord's property.

The reaction of insurance companies, dog owners and real property owners was instant but the legislative process has taken two years to play out. An interim measure discounted the court's ruling by clarifying that since there is no breed of dog called a "pit bull" the Court may refer to the American Bull Terrier only and only if the dog in question can be verified to be that breed. Most dogs involved in claims are not documented so this put a halt to the madness until a full resolution could be drafted.

Maryland is a common law state. What this means is there is no specific law holding an owner responsible for his dog's behavior but there are individual requirements in towns and counties for owners of dogs to employ leashes or confine dogs to their property, and even prevent "unwanted contact" between their dogs and passersby. But in the event of damages caused by a dog, a victim must go to court and present evidence to make a claim.

In other states, owners are strictly liable for damage caused by their dog. In Connecticut, horses were recently added to specific law. And for once, most people are completely satisfied with Maryland's legal remedy which allows for special circumstances such as dogs who injure a burglar or who are teased or otherwise mistreated.

Thank you Maryland for making this better.

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