Under the law as it previously stood, any victim of a dog attack had to prove that the dog’s owner or landlord had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous behavior before the victim could file a lawsuit.
Those who support the court’s decision believe that putting Pit Bulls in a different, more dangerous category than other breeds will curb serious dog attacks in the state of Maryland. Dan Rodricks, a popular columnist for The Baltimore Sun, released an op-ed piece Monday voicing his approval of the ruling. “It makes clear, if it wasn’t already, that Pit Bulls are four-legged timebombs,” Rodricks writes. “You live with them, you live with risk.”
Opponents of the ruling say that the measure punishes responsible owners and good dogs, dogs that consistently score higher than many “family breeds” in temperament tests.
The Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told The Baltimore Sun that they are “disappointed” in the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling, pointing out that a Pit Bull is not more likely to bite than any other breed of dog.
Only a single judge, Clayton Greene Jr., voiced his opposition to the high court’s decision. “Now, it appears, the issue of whether a dog is harmless, or the owner or landlord has any reason to know that the dog is dangerous, is irrelevant to the standard of strict liability,” Greene wrote in a statement.
The Humane Society of the United States also issued a statement condemning the court’s decision. “In addition to our general concerns about the issues with breed specific public policies, we believe the court overstepped its authority,” said HSUS Vice President Betsy McFarland.
Pit Bull Terriers are currently banned in Prince George’s County, Maryland; additional communities across the state are currently weighing whether or not to implement Breed Specific Legislation as well.
The high court’s decision comes just two short months after the state of Ohio voted to end discrimination against the often-misunderstood breed.