MD Bill Would Ease Liability for Pit Bull Owners

ANNAPOLIS, MD - Maryland legislators are taking on a controversial appeals court decision calling all pit bulls "inherently dangerous."

Two and a half year-old London, a female Pit Bull, loves to play catch with her owner. 

"Everyone describes London as just being a happy, happy dog. She almost smiles," says Kara McDowell, the owner.

McDowell thinks Pit Bulls got a bad reputation after a Maryland Court of Appeals decision. The ruling made owners and landlords liable for bites even if the dog had no previous history of violence.

She's glad to hear lawmakers are proposing a bill that doesn't target the breed.

"This bill says we're going to say all dogs are inherently dangerous, but you have to have a reputable presumption. You can go into court and say, 'I never new that this dog had a propensity for any kind of violence," says Del. Michael Smigiel, (R) - District 36, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Delegate Neil Parrott serves on the House Judiciary Committee where the bill was heard on January 30th.

"I support this legislation. This reverses that court decision, and they should be legislating from the bench to begin with. This brings us back closer to what we had before, that common law," says Parrott, (R) - Washington County.

McDowell says London is a 70-pound lap dog. This is her fifth Pit Bull. She says none of them, including London, have been aggressive towards people or other animals. 

"I think it's unfair that they target one dog, so I think this is a huge thing for us. It could be a huge thing for us," McDowell says. "I think if more people were educated, it would make a world of difference.

Many landlords have forced owners to give up their Pit Bulls after the ruling. That's happened at Frederick County Animal Control.

"The shelters are full of Pit Bulls that had to be turned over because the landlords have said, 'You can't live here with the animals.' People have been separated from animals who have never done anything except be loving pets, and it's required that many thousands of dogs be put down," Smigiel says.

The bill would take effect immediately if it passes the Maryland House and Senate. Pit Bull owners, like McDowell, hope that takes a bite out of the ruling.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear the bill next Tuesday, January 5th, at 1 p.m.

You can read House Bill 78 by clicking here and Senate Bill 160 by clicking here.

Smigiel is sponsoring a second Pit Bull bill to create a strict liability for bites unless the owner can prove the attack was provoked.

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