Maryland lawmakers approved a spay-neuter program, and cracked down a little on dog-fighters, but once again they failed to reach agreement on a measure that would relieve pit bulls of the wrongful designation “inherently dangerous.”
So all in all, we give lawmakers — as they take a break from their lawmaking — a C minus when it comes to how they treated dogs this session.
And they passed ”Molly’s Law,” named after a nine-month-old pit bull mix who was used as a bait dog by dog-fighters and who died from her injuries. The “bait dog” law subjects those who use bait dogs to the same penalties that dog-fighting carries — a maximum of three years in jail and fines of up to $5,000.
Maryland Votes For Animals praised the legislature for passing the two bills, but noted Maryland still ranks 43rd nationwide in the strength of dog-fighting laws.
What lawmakers weren’t able to do is reach a compromise on the dog bite liability law and overturn a precedent set by a Court of Appeals ruling last year that has had far-reaching implications.
The compromise died in the House of Delegates in the final hours of the 90-day session, which was also the case when the issue was being debated in a special summer session last year.
Under the new compromise, approved by the Senate, all dog owners — not just pit bull owners — would have been held to a standard of “strict liability” if their dog attacked a child 12 or younger. If a dog bite victim was 13 or older, the owner would have a chance to show their dog wasn’t known to be dangerous.
Without approval from the House, the compromise died, leaving the Appeals Court ruling intact.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 11th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, breed-specific, c minus, compromise, discrimination, dog, dog bit, dogfighting, dogs, grade, house of delegates, law, lawmakers, legislation, legislative, liability, maryland, neuter, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, senate, spay
The Maryland House of Delegates yesterday approved a bill that would make it easier to hold all dog owners accountable for injuries caused by their pets — not just those who own pit bulls.
The Washington Post reports that the measure provides “a small measure of victory to pit bull owners,” whose dogs had been singled out by a Maryland court last spring as “inherently dangerous.”
The bill effectively overturns the Maryland Court of Appeals decision, Tracey v. Solesky, which stemmed from a 2007 incident in which a pit bull mauled a 10-year-old Towson boy.
The measure approved by the house Thursday would make it easier to hold all dog owners liable for injuries caused by their pets. In the past, plaintiffs suing the owners of dogs had to prove the dog was dangerous. Now it will be up to dog owners in liability cases to prove in court that their dog is not dangerous.
The 2012 court decision made owners of pit bulls, and their landlords, automatically liable in the event that their dog bit or injured someone.
Animal rights groups protested the appeals court decision, saying it was leading to dogs being euthanized and tenants being forced to surrender their dogs or move. The House bill does not contain breed-specific language.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breed-specific, burden of proof, courts, dangerous, dog bites, dogs, house of delegates, inherent, inherently dangerous, law, lawsuits, legislation, liability, maryland, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls
To hear Fox 2 in St. Louis tell it, a massive round up of pit bulls was underway last week in the small town of Sikeston, Missouri.
According to the Fox report (above), animal control officers were seizing pit bulls from homes around town — so many that the Sikeston shelter had to send 20 dogs to St. Louis to make room for all the pit bulls they were rounding up.
Other TV news operations, and the Standard Democrat in Sikeston, were quick to report that the Fox News account was a little off the mark.
Sikeston, which does have pit bull restrictions, picked up three dogs it said were not in compliance with the rules — but no roundup took place.
Wednesday’s Fox News report by Chris Hayes that Sikeston held a “pit bull round up day” led to dozens of calls to the newspaper, and a flurry of online alerts and notifications.
Hayes reported that he “found out about the program after learning about a sudden influx of dogs coming to the St. Louis area” and that it was “to make room for seized pit bulls.”
Sikeston City Manager Doug Friend said allegations that the city held a “pit bull round up day” weren’t true.
There are 32 pit bulls registered in Sikeston, according to Friend, and the city audits those on an annual basis.
“It’s not a big process,” he said. “We just basically drive by, verify that somebody that had a registered pit bull still lives at a registered address. Our plan was to just do our annual look.”
During that recent audit, three pit bulls were taken into custody for non-compliance with the city code. It requires that the owners of pit bulls and some other breeds register those pets with the city, carry liability insurance, and keep their dogs in a fully enclosed pen if they are outside.
KFVS also reported that the Fox report was misleading.
According to KFVS, about 30 dogs were shipped from the Sikeston shelter to no-kill shelters across the country, including one near St. Louis.
Friend told KFVS that the transfers, the seizures, and the TV report added up to fear quickly spreading among pit bull advocates, in Sikeston and around the country.
“To suggest and sensationalize the way that the news reporter did is … I’m at a loss for words” Friend said. “I mean, we’re a rural town of 18,000. We try to serve the public to the best of our ability. Everything we do is tailored to the health and safety of our citizens after extensive public comment.”
Of course, none of that is to suggest pit bull bans and restrictions make sense. They don’t.
But for a news organization to suggest, based on a couple of unconnected facts, that a round-up of all pit bulls is underway is a similar sort of fear-mongering — and one that’s neither fair nor balanced.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal control, animals, bans, breed, breed-specific, dogs, fox 2, fox news, laws, media, missouri, news, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, restrictions, sikeston, st. louis, towns
The Maryland General Assembly failed to pass emergency legislation that would have overruled a widely criticized court decision that labeled pit bulls as “inherently dangerous.”
Both the House and Senate, in a special summer session, approved versions of a bill that would have ended singling out pit bulls, but the differences were too “stark” to be worked out before the session ended, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“It will be difficult to come up with a compromise on dogs,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said. Miller said the Senate would neither concur with the House changes nor go to a conference committee.
The attempt at new legislation came after the state’s highest court ruled that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, upholding a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that imposed a higher liability standard on pit bulls than other dogs.
That stemmed from a 2007 dog bite case in which a 10-year-old boy’s family sued the dog owner’s landlord. The trial court judge threw out the lawsuit, ruling the landlord hadn’t been proven negligent. The Court of Appeals reviewed the case and decided no proof of negligence is necessary in the case of pit bulls.
Protests from pit bull lovers and animal welfare organizations led the General Assembly to take up the matter — along with gambling — in a special summer session.
Many say the court rulings have already led to landlords kicking out pit bull-owning tenants, or forcing them to surrender their dogs to animal shelters.
The Senate crafted legislation that required all dogs to be treated the same when it comes to determining liability in civil suits — but rather than mandating pit bulls be held to the same standard as other dogs, its proposal held all other dogs to the same standard as pit bulls. The Senate-passed law did away with the common law standard in Maryland that in effect allows a dog “one free bite.”
The House version maintained the “one free bite” rule, applying the stricter standard only in cases where dogs are running loose.
The Humane Society of the United States said it was disappointed the General Assembly failed to pass a bill before the special session adjourned.
“Due to their inaction, thousands of Maryland families may be forced to choose either their dogs or their homes in the next four months, until the General Assembly comes back in January,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The HSUS.
The HSUS said the court ruling has ”forced many Maryland residents to choose between their homes and their beloved pets, and has forced landlords and property managers to try to determine whether dogs are pit bulls or not. With the General Assembly’s inaction, these impacts are expected to multiply.”
Posted by jwoestendiek August 16th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bill, breed-specific, breeds, dangerous, dogs, emergency, failed, fails, general assembly, house, hsus, humane society of the united states, inherently dangerous, insurance, laws, legislation, liability, limbo, maryland, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, renters, senate, session, shelters, solesky, special, standards, tami santelli, tenants, types, versions
Reacting to protests that erupted after a court decision declaring all pit bull type dogs “inherently dangerous,” the Maryland Senate has approved a new dog bite law that holds all breeds — and their owners — to the same standard.
The bill, considered emergency legislation, now goes to House of Delegates. Once signed by the governor, it becomes law, overriding the state Supreme Court decision that singled out pit bulls as dangerous and ended the requirement that, in liability cases, they be shown to have a history of aggression.
That resulted in a different standard for pit bulls, or any dogs deemed pit bull mixes, at least when it came to civil suits. While all other breeds would still have to be proven dangerous, pit bulls would not because, as the judges saw it, they were that way by definition.
Pit bull owners and lovers saw the dangers inherent in that — from the difficulties it could pose for those who rent, to pit bulls being abandoned at shelters — and began campaigning to have elected officials do something about it.
“It’s definitely a win for pit bull owners,” Katie Flory of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) told WJZ in Baltimore. “We really do feel this is really the best way to go … It is very important that we look at the animal as an individual and not just the breed.”
Posted by jwoestendiek August 13th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, aggressive, animals, bites, breed-specific, breeds, civil, courts, dangerous, decision, dogs, inherently dangerous, laws, legislation, maryland, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, senate, supreme court
The dog whose only crime was resembling a pit bull was euthanized today, after a deadline for legal appeals expired.
His execution – despite 200,000 signatures supporting a reprieve — brings an end to an international effort to save him.
The BBC reports that the city council issued a statement that read:
“Whilst there is an exemption scheme to which dogs of this type (pit-bull terrier type) may be admitted as an alternative to destruction, there were no such measures that could be applied in this case that would address the concerns relating to public safety.”
“The council’s expert described the dog as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across.”
In June, after two lower courts had already ruled that the dog should be put down, Northern Ireland’s highest court rejected Caroline Barnes’ legal bid to overturn an order calling for the destruction of her pet.
Ms. Barnes insisted that Lennox was not dangerous, and her battle to save Lennox snowballed into an often-heated international campaign to save his life.
One Belfast councillor has received a death threat over Lennox’s proposed destruction, the BBC reported, and workers in Belfast City Council have become the target of a fresh series of intimidating messages.
Lennox was impounded by Belfast City Council’s dog wardens in May of 2010, when a new breed specific law went into effect, banning pit bull types in the UK.
Among those calling for Lennox to be spared were boxer Lennox Lewis, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, and television dog training expert Victoria Stillwell, who had offered to have Lennox re-homed in America where he would not be in contact with the public.
Stillwell said she was “absolutely devastated” that Lennox had been put down. “I hoped Belfast City Council would realize that there were alternatives that provided a sanctuary for Lennox in the USA where he would be safe but they did not listen,” she said.
Stillwell said requests that the family be allowed to visit the dog one last time before he was put down were declined — as were requests to allow the family see the dog after he was euthanized.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: belfast, belfast city council, breed bans, breed-specific, breeds, campaign, dangerous, denied, dog, dogs, euthanized, executed, global, international, ireland, killed, laws, lennox, news, pit bull, pit bull type, put down, put to sleep, resemblance, uk, victoria stillwell, visits
The Maryland Court of Appeals opinion declaring all pit bulls — and conceivably any dog with any pit bull in it — “inherently dangerous” shouldn’t be interpreted as outlawing the breed.
It applies only to litigation, and law-abiding pit bulls and their owners should have nothing to fear, those who see reason in the opinion will point out.
But there’s a lot to fear. Even though the opinion directly affects only those who get sued, it indirectly affects everyone — in the form of pets being abandoned, overcrowded shelters, difficulty finding rental property and giving Maryland a reputation as a state where beings are judged, discriminated against and persecuted, all based on looks.
It’s definitely a step in the wrong direction, fraught with connotations of racism, or its canine equivalent; and, like most exhibits of intolerance, it shouldn’t be tolerated.
B-More Dog, a group that’s been fighting on behalf of pit bulls for a few years now, is among the organizations offering advice to pit bull owners, aimed at better understanding the opinion, undoing the damage it did and dealing with its after-effects.
The same case that led to the court opinion played a role in B-More dog forming. In 2007, 10-year-old Dominic Solesky was bitten by a pit bull that escaped from its yard. Not long after that, a Baltimore County councilman introduced legislation that would have required pit bulls to be muzzled in public, among other restrictions.
At a rally to protest the proposed law, the founding members of the organization met, went on to fight the legislation and formed B-More Dog to promote responsible dog ownership.
The Solesky family, meanwhile, filed a civil lawsuit in 2008 against the owners of the pit bull and their landlord. In 2009, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County ruled that the landlord, could not be held (monetarily) responsible for the dog bite because there was no way she could have known that the dog was “dangerous”.
The Solesky family appealed this decision to the Court of Special Appeals which found in favor of the Solesky family. Then, the landlord’s insurance company asked the Maryland Court of Appeals to hear the case. Its opinion last week, saying in, effect, that all pit bulls are dangerous and owners and landlords should know that, is the one that has sent some pit bull owners into states of near panic.
“B-More Dog has been in touch the best and the brightest people, both locally and nationally, who fight breed discrimination,” the organization said in a newsletter this week. “We remain confident that breed discrimination laws will be defeated in Maryland and we are preparing for the marathon battle ahead.”
B-more Dog isn’t the only organization that’s working to inform pit bill owners of the court opinion’s implications.
The Animal Farm Foundation put together information for pit bull owners that you can find it here. The Humane Society of the United States has some advice for renters and others that you can find here.
Those organziations and others are also looking at legal options, including the possibility of the Maryland General Assembly passing a law to undo the court decision. More information on this possibility can be found on this HSUS Facebook Page.
B-More Dog is planning a “Rally to Support Dog Owners Across Maryland,” and has scheduled some other events as well.
They’ll be on hand May 12, handing out stickers and more at the Baltimore Humane Society’s Paws on Parade event this Saturday (May 12).
Next Saturday (May 19), they’ll be holding ”Pins for Pits, a family-friendly bowling fundraiser at Country Club Lanes, 9020 Pulaski Highway in Baltimore, from 5-7 p.m.
And on Sunday (May 20), they’ll be holding their regular “Pit Bulls on Parade”
walk at Rash Field at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, starting at 11 a.m.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, animal farm foundation, animals, b-more dog, breed-specific, breeds, court, court of appeals, discrimination, dogs, events, general assembly, help, hsus, implications, inherently dangerous, law, litigation, maryland, mixes, opinion, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls
Concerns over the Maryland Court of Appeals decision declaring that all pit bull-type dogs are ”inherently dangerous” continue to ripple through the state and beyond.
And rightly so.
Humane Society Legislative Fund President Michael Markarian sums it all up nicely in his ”Animals & Politics” blog:
“The misguided and overreaching ruling treats all pit bulls and pit bull mixes as a category, rather than individual animals. It could make owners, landlords, veterinarians, kennels, animal shelters, rescue groups, and anyone in custody of a dog automatically liable, regardless of whether they know a dog actually poses a threat.
“This is a major step backwards for the state of Maryland, and puts both dogs and people at risk. This sweeping decision is a case of canine profiling. It may force law-abiding citizens to face a painful and life-changing decision — move out of Maryland or give up their beloved dogs. It could increase the number of stray pit bull-type dogs on the streets and euthanized in shelters, turning back progress made by animal shelters and rescue groups over the past few decades.
“… Rather than protect public safety, the court’s fiat has the opposite effect: It has the potential to create packs of free-roaming pit bulls roaming Maryland neighborhoods, rather than living safely as beloved family pets. Taxpayers and municipal agencies will bear the financial burden of addressing public health and safety problems caused by feral dog packs.”
Breed alone is not predictive of whether a dog may pose a danger, Markarian notes. Far larger factors are the dog’s living conditions, whether he was properly socialized, owner behavior, and whether he’s chained.
On top of being misguided, the ruling fails to recognize that pit bulls aren’t a breed, but a fuzzy catch-all term, and proving a dog is a pit bull will likely be problematic.
“And who’s to decide whether a dog is a pit bull and therefore unwelcome with a cursory visual exam? According to a recent study by the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, which looked at a group of 120 dogs at four animal shelters, 55 of those dogs were identified as “pit bulls” by shelter staff, but only 25 were confirmed as pit bulls by DNA analysis. Additionally, the staff missed identifying 20 percent of the dogs who were pit bulls by DNA analysis, while only 8 percent of the “true” pit bulls were identified by all staff members … The National Canine Research Council has a clearinghouse of resources demonstrating that breed labels assigned to dogs of unknown origin are usually inaccurate.
Many dogs merely resembling the pit bull-type look will be swept up and punished by this ruling, and there may be expensive court battles over whether a dog is or isn’t a pit bull. With as many as 75 percent of shelter dogs being mixed breeds, this is not an anti-pit bull decision, but an anti-dog decision.
Markarian encourages readers to show how they feel about the ruling by submitting their favorite pit bull pictures to the “We Love Maryland Pit Bulls” photo album on the HSUS Maryland Facebook page, or by posting them on Twitter with the hashtag #LoveMDpitbulls.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, animals, breed-specific, breeds, court of appeals, dangerous, decision, dogs, humane society legislative fund, image, inherently dangerous, landlords, law, lawsuits, maryland, michael markarian, opinion, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, reputation, roaming, ruling, shelters
The town of Aurelia, Iowa, has declined to settle out of court with James Sak, the former Chicago police officer who says he should be allowed to keep the pit bull mix that helps him cope with the effects of a stroke.
Sak, 65, had to relinquish Snickers last year because the municipality bans pit bulls. He sent the dog to a boarding facility outside Aurelia. Later, an Iowa judge later granted an injunction, allowing Snickers and Sak to reunite (see the video above) and stay together in Aurelia until the case is resolved.
The Animal Farm Foundation, which is helping with Sak’s legal representation, said last week that the town has declined to settle the case, and that a trial has been scheduled for July, 2013, more than a year from now.
Earlier this year, Saks, a stroke victim, was diagnosed with throat cancer. He has been undergoing treatment at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City.
“The worst part of my [cancer] treatment is not having my dog here,” said Sak, who is expected to return home after his hospital stay.
“Jim has been so strong throughout all of this. We know his strength comes from knowing Snickers is waiting for him at home, waiting to do his job as his service animal and his support,” said said Kim Wolf, community engagement specialist for Animal Farm Foundation.
Sak suffered a stroke in 2008 that left him confined to a wheelchair and unable to use the right side of his body. He was paired at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago with Snickers, who helps him walk, balance and call from help in an emergency.
“We want everyone to realize that Aurelia’s decision to use taxpayer dollars to put Jim through the agony of a trial, especially while he’s battling cancer, does not reflect the sentiments of every resident of Aurelia,” Wolf said. “The outpouring of support and disbelief from Jim’s neighbors has been huge.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal farm foundation, animals, aurelia, ban, breed, breed-specific, breeds, cancer, chicago, disability, dog, dogs, hospital, iowa, james sak, kim wolf, law, officer, pets, pit bull, pit bull mix, police, scheduled, service, snickers, stroke, treatment, trial, victim
“They have a reputation for vicious mauling,” he says in the first paragraph of his Monday column, written after serving as a judge in a costume contest that was part of last weekend’s Maryland SPCA March for the Animals.
That makes me wonder — not just about the SPCA’s choice in judges, but whether The Sun has changed its slogan. I’ve been away. Is it “Light for Some” now? “Light for Purebreds?” “Light for erroneous stereotypes?”
First off, if I may shed some light for all, it’s the news media (always so easy to blame) that accounts, in large part, for the pit bull’s undeserved bad reputation — along with fear mongering politicians.
Rodricks further trashes that reputation, calling pit bulls, among other things, “four-legged time bombs” — and at a time when much of the country, with exceptions like the Maryland Court of Appeals, is waking up to how wrong that stereotype is.
“Until they are banned outright, pit bulls should not be allowed in public, and their ownership should bear heavy, legal responsibility,” Rodricks wrote, adding that he was “pleased” with the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling declaring pit bulls and pit bull mixes “inherently dangerous.”
Rodricks talked about his admiration for the Maryland SPCA and its efforts to shelter and find home for dogs. And he praised the annual March for the Animals, saying the spectacle of people walking their pets around Druid Lake was “inspiring — city life at its top.”
If only there weren’t pit bulls in the crowd:
“The pit bulls make it weird … Of course, the pit bulls are all tethered or chained to their owners, and, given the nature of the event, you generally assume that the men and women who participate are responsible and educated pet owners; altruistic, too. Many adopted these animals to provide them a home and train them toward good behavior. They believe mistreatment of the pit bull by ignorant humans is the problem, not the breed itself.”
He then conveys the following misinformation:
“The evidence shows clearly that such attacks are disproportionate to the number of pit bulls in society, that they inflict far more damage than other dogs, and that their attacks are associated with a higher risk of death. Pit bull jaws are three times stronger than those of a German (shepherd).”
The appeals court ruling — delving as it does into pit bull attacks over history, or at least attacks police attributed to pit bulls — “makes clear, if it wasn’t already, that pit bulls are four-legged time bombs,” Rodricks says
As you might expect, Rodricks is now getting the vicious mauling he feared might occur if he got too close to a pit bull — from readers.
You can find their comments here.
(Photo: From TheBullyBreedBlog.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, baltimore, baltimore sun, ban, breed-specific, breeds, columnist, costume contest, dan rodricks, dangerous, discrimination, dogs, images, inherent, judge, March for the Animals, maryland, maryland court of appeals, maryland spca, news media, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, reputation, restrict, ruling, stereotypes