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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.

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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