I've been meaning to cover the situation in Maryland for awhile -- but, because of some other stuff going on I just haven't gotten to it. But here's the latest -- and some background for those who haven't been keeping up (and it's been a LOT to keep up with).
Back on April 26, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a ruling that essentially states that pit bulls, and their mixes, are presumed dangerous by the nature of their breed (or type). The ruling provides a whole host of problems for owners of pit bull type dogs -- including problems getting insurance and if their dog is involved in a bite incident, further liability than other dog owners in similar situations because their dog is a presumed risk (whether they've demonstrated bad behavior befor or not). This has been particularly problematic for renters and landlords as they even transferred the burden on landlords that they were also liable if they knew there was a 'pit bull' on their rental property.
However, legislators are lining up to pass a new law that will negate the decision -- including one by Senate Minority Leader EJ Pipkin -- who called the decision "unprecedented and misguided" and a "Judicial overstep". The law should be heard in a special session in July. Other legislators have also spoken out in favor of the law over-riding the judicial ruling including Thomas "Mike" Miller, JB Jennings, Heather Mizeur, Frank Turner, Michael Smigiel Sr, Herbert McMillan and Jon Cardin - and will no doubt be supported by Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen -- who ows a 'pit bull mix" name Tula. Cohen doesn't really get a vote, but as the mayor in the capital city he no doubt has some influence.
The court decision has been opposed by nearly everyone, including The Washington Humane Society, rescue organization Presidential Pits, B-More Dog,the Maryland SPCA, Second Hope Rescue, Baltimore Humane Society, Humane Society of the United States and Best Friends has also created an action alert (and many other orgs have expressed interest in repealing this) Immediately after the decision came out Senate President Thomas Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael Busch announced a joint legislative task force to study the Court opinion. Apparently the new laws being filed are a result of the task force.
The court ruling was made in conjunction with a 2007 attack of a boy by a dog in Towson, MD. According to the courts, the fact the dog was a "pit bull" was prima facie evidence that the dog's owners should have KNOWN the dog was aggressive -- and thus, were more liable for negligence than had the bite happened by any other type of dog.
The ruling (no kidding), used as one of it's proof points, an 1882 dog bite case that involved a Newfoundland dog that was involved in an attack. The court, in 1882, ruled that "the fact that the owner kept his dog tied and did not permit him to run at large, it MUST BE PRESUMED that he had konwledge that the dog was vicious, unruly and not safe...." Or may I suggest that in 1882 the dog was in a rural community and the dog was a working dog, used to protect the flock in the evenings while the owner was asleep. Just a guess.
Either way, the court then argued that they could then make many of the same presumptions in this case -- and through a series of presumptions, ruled that all 'pit bulls' are inherently aggressive.
You can read the court ruling in their entirety here.
The ruling was a 5-4 decision -- so a close one and four of the nine judges didn't agree. And I think the further "logic" of the court case is summed up excellently by the dissenting opinion. Here's an exerpt (emphasis mine):
"By the virtue of this new rule, grounded ultimately upon the perceptions of the majority of this court about a particular breed of dog, rather than upon adjudicated facts showing that the responsible party possessed the requisite knowledge of the animal's incliantion to do harm, the majority transforms a clear factual question into a legal one in an effort to create liability. If the majority believes that it has not transformed the relevant inquiry from a factual determination into a legal one, in the present case, then I pose this question: "What expert testimony or factual predicate is contate within this record to support a factual finding that pit bulls and mixed-breed pit bulls are inherently dangerous? I have considered the record and foudn no such factual predicate."
This should give you a pretty good feel for the decision -- and why the legislature has jumped on adding a law that specifically overides the court decision on its agenda for the summer emergency session.
Best of luck to all the folks who are working hard to overturn this decision. It isn't a good judgement -- and I suspect that with the continued work of advocates in the area that Maryland will become yet another state that will outlaw breed-specific laws.