Last week, as the final deadline for the legislative approached, the bill to overturn a Maryland Court Decision failed to pass.
The bill in discussion was created to overturn the Solesky court case in which the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a ruling that stated that pit bulls, and their mixes, were presumed dangerous based on their breed.
The court decision caused a lot of problems for owners to get insurance, to get rental property and for landlords (who had liability passed along to them as part of the ruling).
While an agreement on how to overturn the bill during a special summer session couldn't be reached, both houses seemed ripe to pass a new law determining that dogs were not presumed dangerous based on breed and "restore the sanity." And they did. Kind of.
Both the House and the Senate UNANIMOUSLY passed versions of a bill that would over-ride the court ruling. However, the bills were somewhat different, with the Senate version putting the owner of a dog that bites on the hook for proving they had no reason to think the dog was aggressive, and the House version stating that the person who was bitten would have to prove the owner had reason to believe the dog was aggressive.
Unfortunately a compromise between the two bills could not be reached -- and in spite of ever, single, representative and senator having a desire to overturn the court ruling, they failed to do so.
The legislators are getting a lot of criticism for thier actions; shelters are starting to fill up with pit bulls that can no longer stay in their homes (putting increased pressure on organizations like the Maryland SPCA) and families are losing beloved pets. In the end, the only "winners" here are the trial lawyers. The Capital Gazette called the inaction a failure. Others note that the failure to over-ride the court case "let dog owners ".
Already, legislators are vowing to make up for it in next year's session. Another is calling to bring all lawmakers together for a one-day session to reach a compromise to "stop the carnage".
While I'm truly sad that the ruling did not get overturned, I'm optimistic that it will. It is so rare that such a ruling would create such UNANIMOUS opposition to support it being overturned. But in this case, the mass chaos, dogs' lives, and renters moving out of rentals has wreaked havoc on the state of Maryland and people have recognized, on a grand scale, the damage that singling out breeds does.
But make no mistake, this was not a win for the supporters of breed-specific legislation. In spite of their testimony, they influenced NO ONE that their side was correct and that the court ruling should stand.
When people and legislators really look at the facts, and look at what real experts say about canine behavior, they soon realize that breed-specific policies are not appropriate responses to the problem of bites by canines. And that message continuest to be heard, loud and clear.