Maryland's legislators won't just be talking about gambling when they return to Annapolis this week. Lawmakers will also take up a bill to overturn April's court decision that all pit bulls are inherently dangerous.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh circulated a draft bill on Monday that would make all dog owners legally responsible for bites regardless of breed.
"We actually think that the legislative session is great," said Kim Teter, volunteer coordinator for the SPCA of Anne Arundel County. "We are glad we could get it now rather than having to wait until January."
The bill is in response to a controversial ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals this April. It stated that pit bull owners would face more liability in attack cases than owners of other breeds.
This issue hit close to the south county community in May when a 10-year-old boy was injured after an alleged pit bull bit him at Tracey's Elementary during a lacrosse practice.
Judge Dale R. Cathell wrote in the opinion, "When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous."
The ruling also extended that liability to landlords and granted property owners permission to prohibit pit bulls or pit bull cross-breeds from their properties.
Teter said the court decision caused a real problem at her shelter in Annapolis where more than a quarter of the dogs up for adoption appear to be pit bull or pit bull mixes.
"We have a number of pit bulls here that keep getting overlooked," Teter said. "Landlords are now afraid to have them, and many insurance companies won't let you have them either."
She said a lot of people who come into adopt tell her apartment complexes are denying dogs if "it looks like a pit bull."
"We make the best assumption that we can based on our knowledge, but it's very hard to identify a breed based on looks," Teter said. "We simply can't make this designation definitively by looks."
Teter fears if the ruling stands, landlords could begin blanket prohibitions on animals in general.
In May, Marylanders flocked to Annapolis to protest the court's opinion at Lawyer's Mall. And they will be back this week to in support of the bill to overturn the court's ruling. Teter said a rally is being organized for Thursday by B-More Dog, a Baltimore County-based nonprofit. Specific details on the time and location of the rally have not yet been released.