Are Pit Bulls Dangerous by Nature? Court Says Yes

The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that owners of pit bulls are liable for damages caused by attacks by the breed, but a local veterinarian disagrees.

If your pit bull attacks someone, don't expect much sympathy in court. An opinion recently released by the Maryland Court of Appeals states that you should have already known the breed was dangerous.

Maryland owners are now facing increased liability in attack cases, following a ruling in Tracey v. Solesky. The case involved a pit bull named Clifford that attacked a minor, causing life-threatening injuries. 

"When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous," wrote Judge Dale R. Cathell in the opinion.

Cathell also stated that landlords have the right to prohibit pit bulls or pit bull cross-breeds from their property.

Dr. Heather Myers of the in Edgewater said she's treated pit bulls numerous times and disagrees with the court's opinion. 

"I don't think [the opinion] should be a breed-specific ruling," Myers said. "The vast majority of the pit bulls I see are very sweet dogs." 

Myers said the big issue with pits bulls isn't that they are inherently vicious but that when something bad does happen with a pit bull, the consequences are more severe. The local vet said she puts her face in pit bulls' mouths all the time and still finds them to be very sweet animals.

"Because of the strength these dogs have in their jaws, the possibility for extreme injury or death is more prevalent, but it's just based on the way they're made," she said. "I'm just as likely to get bit by a Chihuahua. But if a pit bull bites me, I'm going to have a bad day. Pit bulls just get a bad rep."

A PDF of the opinion is attached in the media gallery.

The opinion cited a series of cases involving vicious attacks by pit bulls, as well as expert evaluations and national statistics, according to a WBAL TV News report

Aileen Gabbey, executive director of the Maryland SPCA, claimed the ruling could lead to fewer adoptions of pit bulls, ABC 2 News reported.

Myers said she sees a fair number of pit bulls at the , and that more and more owners are purchasing dogs that are only "part pit." 

Is it fair for the court to designate pit bulls as inherently dangerous?

How accountable should dog owners be held in attack cases? Tell us in the comments.

Kate May 01, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Breed specific rulings anger me. Its not fair to single out a few breeds and make statements that these animals are inherently mean or dangerous. If you were to dig deep into the history of these breeds, including pits, you'd find they belong to working groups and were bred to assist families in everyday chores (ie: rotties were used to haul carts of meat to/from butchers). Pits get such a bad rep b/c they are one of few breeds who are so loyal to and trusting of their owners, they will fight to the death if asked. Can we for once blame the owners and not the dog?!
PitBullFan May 01, 2012 at 04:58 PM
This is ridiculous. It is clear that the Court of Appeals did not do it's due dilligence in this matter. Maryland is going backwards if BSL (breed specific legislation) becomes prevalent. More and more states are overturning their BSL. If you look back in history, this discrimination has happened to german shepherds, doberman pinchers and rottweilers. Pit Bulls used to be called "nanny dogs" because they would be very protective of children. What the media doesn't tell you is that, temperment wise, pit bulls test better than labs. Educate yourself and create your own opinion.
Ell May 01, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I am very upset with how uneducated this judge is on Pitbulls. I have 2 rescue Pitbulls and both are great with other people, other dogs, and children. Each dog should be evaluated on their own merit as every dog is different. BSL is a huge step backwards and only proves how prevelant discrimination really is. Education is key!
Michael May 01, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I agree with the previous comments. I have worked in boarding kennels and at a local ASPCA and pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other breed. It is their "reputation" in the media and the hyperbole of a few exaggerated cases that fuels this misconception. The MD CofA has set a dangerous precedent that I will be surprised if there is not a further appeal. Blame the breeders, owners and the hype machine for the bad reputation of a good breed.
Kathleen Woelfel May 01, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I Iove pit bulls and they are sweet as they can be. Like every other dog they need to be trained along with lots of love. They do not need to be hit except maybe with a newspaper. They are very, very smart and loving dogs. It is a shame so many people are afraid of them and don't give them a chance. I blame a lot of the fear on the fact that they are used for fighting and get a lot of bad publicity.
Ed Johns May 01, 2012 at 07:40 PM
If you own a passive Pit you have nothing to worry about. If you can't control your animal and it attacks someone you'll be sued into a cardboard box.
Jennifer Sweeney May 01, 2012 at 08:07 PM
this is def crap.. I own a 1 yr pit bull. she is the biggest baby ever. all she does is gives u with a whole bunch of KISSES. she is awesome with my 2 kids. My 13 german shep. is the one i tell everyone to watch out for. she is the one i watch with everyone. but she is awesome as well with my kids. u shouldnt judge a dog by its breed. u should watch out for any dog if they have teeth then they may bite u.
tom May 02, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I think the owners are missing a major point, which was hinted at by the South Arundel Veterinarian. A pit bull has the capacity to do serious and even grave damage to other animals and human beings--especially children. These dogs are not inherently evil, but they are animals who sometimes act on instinct rather than training. They do what they are supposed to do and it's the responsibility of the owner to prevent them from injuring someone or their pet. As a group, pit bull owners get very defensive about this breed and go into denial about the potential harm that can be caused by their extremely strong jaws. Any dog can cause injury, but a pit bull is one of those that can cause severe injury and in the case of children and elderly they can cause death.
Asa May 02, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Pit Bulls are NOT the dog with the strongest JAW. There are children that have been severely hurt by Golden Retrivers and Black labs and even Jack Russels. You need to educate your self. ANY DOG can cause severe damage. They are animals not humans.
tom May 02, 2012 at 11:37 AM
To Asa: I did not say pit bulls have the strongest jaw and if you'll read my comment and lose your attitude, you should be able to see that my comment stated pretty much just what you have asserted: That any dog can cause injury and that they are animals, doing what they are supposed to do--they are not evil devil dogs. You suggested I should educate myself. You changed "yourself" into two separate words, so perhaps you should take your owns advice. More important, you should lose your attitude.
Bryan Kempton May 02, 2012 at 01:54 PM
To Tom, I'm very confused as to how you have a major point that we have somehow missed. There are PLENTY of dogs that can cause "grave injury" and even death in the case of children and the elderly. Singling out pit bulls is uneducated, unfair and one more example of Maryland's propensity to overlegislate, and somehow you are incredulous that we get defensive. Of course we do! This heavy-handed archaic ruling will have grave repercussions ultimately leading to more abandoned and euthanized animals. But I guess that's ok according to you since they have "extremely strong jaws." Get real, and get off your high horse.
KMJ May 02, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Another tragic set back for animals in Md. It is really impossible to comprehend singling out, condemning a certain breed of dog. I can't imagine the heartbreaking onslaught of the forced relinquishment of a family pet to Maryland shelters and rescues already over filled. Euthanasia rates and costs (part of the domino effect this will cause) will rise. There's so much wrong about this. Look at the Humane Society's positiion: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/facts/statement_dangerous_dogs_breed_specific_legislation.html. Another great article http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/blog/Pitbulls-Deemed-Dangerous-Tracey-v-Solesky-Court-Case-20529-1.html Another sad day in MD for animals.
Bryan Kempton May 02, 2012 at 02:48 PM
"In the 70s they blamed Dobermans, in the 80s they blamed German Shepherds, in the 90s they blamed the Rottweiler. Now they blame the Pit Bull." - Cesar Millan
Harry Balzonia May 02, 2012 at 03:50 PM
... next decade will be Pomeranians.
tom May 02, 2012 at 06:03 PM
You seem to disagree that pits have strong jaws, since that's one of your issues with my stated opinion. I am not "incredulous" that you get defensive, because I'm used to hearing that these dogs are sweet, docile and harmless and everytime someone is maimed or mauled by one, the pit owners get defensive again. You're one of those groups that cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with them and sarcasm is one of your favorite tools.
Bryan Kempton May 03, 2012 at 01:54 PM
To Tom: Now you are calling me part of a "group" of intolerant people simply because I called you on the carpet (no pun intended) for your snarky comments to Asa? Please. I told you that you were wrong and why. And next time, try not to confuse wit with sarcasm.
Harry Balzonia May 03, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Looks like Asa hit the nail on the head... By Natalie Lopez NBCWashington.com updated 1 hour 0 minutes ago 2012-05-03T17:18:15 A baby boy from Amissville, Va., was hospitalized following an apparent attack by a family dog on Tuesday, police said. A family member found the Jack Russell Terrier biting the baby in his bassinet. The baby, believed to be less than a month old, was bitten more than 30 times. The baby was later flown to an area hospital and was in stable condition as of Wednesday night. The baby's father shot the dog and then put down immediately after the attack, investigators said. The case is still under investigation. Police said it's unclear why the dog attacked the infant. No charges have been filed and none are expected at this time. “My heart goes out to the family in this incident and I pray for a full recovery of the child,” Sheriff Scott Jenkins said Thursday afternoon.
Thomas May 08, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Pitbull owners are defensive because they know the potential dangers with this particular breed. Thats why they buy or adopt pitbulls in the first place. BITE ME
Shelly May 20, 2012 at 11:07 AM
I bought a Pit from a breeder down in Tennessee..I must say when I first went there I was scared to death to see all the pitbulls. I was so brainwashed by the media news about pitbulls that I automatically went into panic mode when seeing them. I must say that the Pitbull we purchased has been the best dog I've ever known. I do however have to say that a pitbull can not live off of love alone. I do think they need to be trained(as with any dog) and to be socialized with people and other animals. I think we need to look at the whole picture here not just the attacks we see once in awhile on television that is out to freak everyone out. And yes, people are going to become defensive about a pitbull (especially if they own one), they become part of your family. I felt more uneasy having my lab around people then I did my pit. There has to be some type of middle ground here because all pits are not bad. If an owner of a pit observes its behavior long enough they should know what triggers that pitbull to bite or not get along with other animals. And whoever wrote about the other dogs who were labeled dangerous before the Pitbull came around is right. I'm not ignorant to the fact the damage that can be done when a pitbull attacks someone but it's funny they never show the severe damage a german shepard or dobbie can do...
Eye of The Beholder Consignments August 08, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Unfortunately people are vicious not Pit Bulls! Any Dog has the potential to bite! All dog owners need to be responsible. I have Baltimore Humane socierty linked to my Business website and I adopted a pit/mutt from them and he is WONDERFUL and I have a four year old child and teenager, he's part of the family! Hold owners responsible not the dogs!


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