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
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
First came a Court of Appeals ruling, late last week, declaring all pit bulls (and pit bull mixes) “inherently dangerous” — stating, in effect, that breed, or type, or even looks alone, are all that is required to assume a dog is bad.
Then came a newspaper column by the normally level-headed Dan Rodricks, fresh from judging a dog costume contest for the Maryland SPCA, declaring pit bulls “four-legged time bombs” that should not be allowed in public.
It was not prompted by anything that happened at the SPCA’s March for the Animals — other than his seeing some pit bulls there. Instead, it seemed based on a prejudice he apparently holds and, with a court decision to back him up, felt inclined to reveal.
Taken together, the column and court decision (you can read it here) have riled friends of pit bulls, who are fighting back, on Facebook, through website comments and petitions and via letters to the editor at the Baltimore Sun, like this one — my personal favorite:
“… I live in the Pigtown neighborhood of Baltimore. When my suburban friends come visit, they hold their kids close, and they look askance at some of my more ‘unusual’ neighbors. Some of them are only too happy to hop back in their cars and scurry back to the counties. To them it’s “obvious” that Baltimore is a dangerous place, with all the derelict buildings and the homeless people and the occasional addict passed out on the sidewalk …
“I’m also a pit bull owner — an accidental one, because I found mine starving and scared, running down Wicomico Street dragging a leash behind him. I caught him and brought him home because that’s what any decent dog lover would do. Then I found out how incredibly, incredibly difficult it is to rehome these dogs — because of the stigmas, and because there are just so many of them.
“I had only limited experience with the breed before mine chose me, but I have discovered that they are wonderful, wonderful dogs, incredibly smart and ridiculously affectionate. Some of them need more work than others, but anyone who says they’re “inherently” dangerous has obviously never met a good one. And there are lots of good ones.
“But if all you see when you look at them are the cropped ears and the muscular bodies and all the teeth — regardless of whether or not they’re showing off that famous pit bull smile — and because of the way they look decide they’re not worth getting to know, you’re just as ignorant as all the suburbanites who think Baltimore is nothing but vacant houses and drug dealers.”
Written by Erin Harty, the letter makes some excellent points about stereotyping and judging by looks — points that shouldn’t be lost on Rodricks, who has been able to look beneath the gruff exteriors and even bad behavior of convicts and ex-convicts and see some redeeming traits. It’s a shame he can’t bring himself to do the same when it comes to pit bulls, the vast majority of which have not engaged in any bad behavior. And won’t.
The Maryland SPCA’s executive director, Aileen Gabbey, voiced disappointment with Rodrick’s remarks and the court of appeals decision.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there is no accurate way to measure and determine which breeds are more likely to bite. These legitimate agencies also state that any data collected relating to dog bites has high potential for error,” she wrote in a letter to the editor.
“Mr. Rodricks’ opinions certainly won’t damper the success of the MD SPCA’s 17th March for the Animals. Thousands of dog owners and dog breeds of all kinds safely came together to have fun while helping the homeless dogs in our community.”
Of greater concern to pit bull owners is the court of appeals ruling, and its possible ramifications.
The Humane Society of the United States said in a in a press release that it plans to work with Maryland dog advocates and members of the legislature to develop “rational, science-based dangerous dog policies for the state after the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision fundamentally changing longstanding liability rules relating to pit bull and mixed pit bull dogs.”
The court decision focuses on liability. Under previous case law, a victim intending to file a lawsuit after a dog attack had to prove that a dog’s owner, or landlord, knew it had a history of being dangerous. Now, under the new precedent it set, the filer of a lawsuit merely has to show that the owner knew their dog was all or part pit bull. That would be sufficient basis for a claim.
Betsy McFarland, HSUS vice president, said the court overstepped its authority.
“A seismic shift in Maryland law of this nature should be undertaken by the legislature, not judges. The legislature should conduct appropriate fact-finding and hearings, consider the available science, and make a measured, non-emotional decision on this important policy issue.
“We encourage advocates to call their state legislators to respectfully voice their concerns, and urge them to work with advocates on legislation in the next session that provides rational, science-based dangerous dog policies for the state.
“The Humane Society of the United States’ companion animals department is in communication with shelters and rescues, and will be looking for ways to support them as they consider the ramifications of this decision.”
(Photo: Jasmine, one of Michael Vick’s former fighting pit bulls, who ended up in Baltimore, and was featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story about Vick’s dogs overcoming their inhumane treatment at human hands)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anger, animals, baltimore, baltimore sun, banned, bashing, columnist, court, court of appeals, dan rodricks, dangerous, decision, dogs, four legged time bombs, hsus, humane society of the united states, inherently, maryland spca, media, news, newspaper, opinion, petitions, pets, pit bull, pit bull lovers, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, public, response, responses, ruling, vick dogs
Most voters think it’s wrong to carry a dog on the roof of a car, even in a crate, but a majority also say a candidate having done so — as Mitt Romney did — would not have an effect on their vote, according to a new poll.
The poll found 68 percent say they think that it is inhumane to put the family dog on top of the car for a long trip.
Stunningly, 14 percent said they think it’s humane, and 18 percent weren’t sure, according the Huffington Post.
As asked by the polling firm, the question did not specify that it was a 12-hour trip; just a long one.
Nine hundred registered voters were interviewed for the poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), which is described as a Democratic-leaning firm.
While most voters think putting a dog on the car roof is inhumane, 55 percent said Romney’s 30-year-old action didn’t affect which candidate they would support. More than a third — 35 percent — said it made them less likely to support Romney. Seven percent — and we can only assume they represent the dog haters among us — said it made them more likely to support him.
Among only the people who were already Romney supporters, 17 percent said the Seamus story made them less likely to vote for him, while 75 percent said it didn’t make a difference.
Romney drove his family to Canada for a vacation in 1983 with their Irish setter, Seamus, in a crate fastened to the roof of their station wagon. At one point, Seamus suffered a bout of diarrhea and Romney pulled into a gas station to hose off the dog, crate and car before continuing.
The story was first reported by the Boston Globe in 2007. Last week, Rick Santorum’s campaign finally seized on it: “If you can’t be nice to your dog, who are you going to be nice to?” a Santorum spokesman said.
In the poll, 44 percent of respondents gave President Obama a favorable rating for his treatment of dogs, compared to 20 percent for Romney.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, campaign, candidates, car, crate, decision, diarrhea, dog, dogs, hose, humane, impact, inhumane, irish setter, mitt romney, obama, opinions, pets, poll, presidential, public policy polling, romney, roof, santorum, seamus, voters
Three judges of the Superior Court upheld a conviction for animal cruelty of a dog groomer who had offered “gothic” kittens for sale on eBay.
An investigation into the pierced kittens began in 2008 when a citizen saw the animals being offered for $100 each on eBay, inquired about them and reported it to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Luzerne County, according to the Times Leader in Wilkes Barre.
A citizen tipped off PETA, as well, which conducted an investigation of its own and passed on information to the SPCA.
Accompanied by state police, SPCA officials visited Pawside Parlor, located at the home of Holly Crawford in Sweet Valley, Pa. They removed three kittens and a cat. While at the home, police also found a dog with pierced ears.
A jury found Crawford guilty of animal cruelty, and last year she was sentenced to six months of home detention and electronic monitoring, followed by probation.
In her appeal, Crawford argued that Pennsylvania’s cruelty statutes were too vague, and pointed out that many accepted veterinary procedures like declawing cats and cutting a dog’s vocal cords could fall under the same category she was being prosecuted under.
The law forbids “acts that maim, mutilate, torture or disfigure the animal.”
This week, the Superior Court panel upheld the lower court’s findings, the New York Times reported.
In a 19-page opinion, Judge Kate Ford Elliott wrote that “metal protruded from the kittens’ small bodies, pierced through their ears and necks, and at least one of these kittens also had an elastic band tied around its tail, an attempt at docking …”
Crawford, who was described in the opinion as being “enthusiastic about piercing,” had admitted to piercing the kittens without anesthetic.
“Appellant’s claims center on her premise that a person of normal intelligence would not know whether piercing a kitten’s ears or banding its tail is maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring an animal.” Judge Elliott wrote. “We disagree.”
Posted by jwoestendiek June 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, cats, decision, disfiguring, ebay, goth cats, gothic, gothic kittens, holly crawford, kittens, luzerne county, maiming, mutilating, opinion, pennsylvania, peta, piercing, sale, spca, superior court, upheld, wilkes-barre
The short documentary above — and, be warned, it will make you cry — chronicles the last minutes of a dog named Oden.
One of more than 6,500 submissions from thousands of artists and filmmakers, “Last Minutes with Oden” won top honors in a video contest sponsored by Vimeo, the online video sharing website.
The video focuses on Jason Wood and his dog Oden, who got cancer and had a leg amputated last year. But the cancer spread, leading Wood to make the anguishing decision to put down the dog who taught him how to love.
The video by Eliot Rausch documents the last day of Oden’s life. Vimeo’s panel of judges named it the best documentary, and the best video, and Vimeo presented the owners with a grant of $25,000. The awards were presented last month in New York City.
Jeremy Boxer, Co-Director of the Vimeo Festival + Awards called the video “one of those rare, intimate shorts that leads with its heart and soul.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: amputation, animals, awards, cancer, death, decision, documentary, dog, dogs, eliot rausch, euthanasia, festival, filmmaking, honor, jason wood, judges, last minutes with oden, oden, pets, phos, pictures, put down, sad, short, video, vimeo
The Supreme Court has ruled that videos showing dogfights and other acts of animal cruelty are protected by free speech.
The court, in an 8-1 decision, struck down a federal law designed to stop the sale and marketing of such videos. The justices concluded the 10-year-old statute was overly broad.
The case before the court stemmed from an appeal by Robert Stevens, of Pittsville, Virginia, who sold videos through his business, Dogs of Velvet and Steel. The tapes show pit bulldogs attacking other animals and one another in staged confrontations.
The high court threw out Stevens’ conviction for selling depictions of animal cruelty.
Stevens argued his 37-month sentence sentence was longer than the 14 months given professional football player Michael Vick, who ran an illegal dogfighting ring.
His case was the first prosecution in the United States to proceed to trial under the 1999 law.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 20th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, chief justice, child pornography, conviction, crush videos, decision, depictions, dissent, dissenting, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogfights, dogs of velvet and steel, first amendment, free speech, hsus, humane society of the united states, john roberts, law, opinion, overturned, protected, robert stevens, ruling, samuel alito, speech, statute, struck down, supreme court, video
After three years of litigation and $40,000 in legal fees, who gets Dexter — a six-year-old pug at the center of a New Jersey custody case — has been decided.
Dexter, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, will be shared.
Under a New Jersey Superior Court judge’s ruling yesterday, the dog will be rotated, every five weeks, between the homes of Eric Dare, who was originally awarded custody of the dog, and his ex, Doreen Houseman, who sued to get Dexter back.
Dexter has been with Dare since the initial court ruling, filed after the couple ended their relationship in May 2006. They spent 13 years as a couple, but never married.
An appeals panel earlier this year reversed the original ruling by Judge John Tomasello, saying the judge had failed to consider Dexter’s “subjective value.”
The panel said the dog was similar to a family heirloom, or work of art, that cannot simply be awarded to one person in exchange for a face-value payment. Houseman was paid $1,500, the price of the pedigree dog, but she wanted the pet, which she frequently dressed in costumes and lavished with gifts.
Both live in Gloucester County, N.J.
Houseman, 35, who now lives with her parents, said she was “very happy” with the ruling and can’t wait to give Dexter “a lot of hugs and kisses” when she sees him Friday. Dare, 37, said he was shocked and may appeal the ruling.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 22nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: custody, decision, dexter, doreen houseman, eric dare, gloucester county, judge, lawsuit, legal, new jersey, news, pug, ruling, shared, subjective, value
“Virginia may be for lovers, but Loudoun County isn’t the place for dog lovers.”
That’s the conclusion of an animal welfare legislative analyst in light of a Loudoun County judge’s ruling that the county can ban pit bull adoptions — despite a Virginia law to that ensures the right to own a pit bull.
“This is a dark day for shelter dogs in our nation,” said Ledy VanKavage, of Best Friends Animal Society. “Throughout the land, cities and states are rejecting breed discriminatory laws and this decision embraces profiling.”
The judge’s May 21 ruling ended the nearly two-year battle over the county’s no-adopt policy on pit bulls.
In a 13-page opinion, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill sided with the county, ruling that banning the adoption of pit bulls does not break state or local laws, the Loudoun Times reports. The ruling came after a two-day trial May 5 and 6.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Loudoun resident Ronald Litz in 2007 after he tried to adopt a pit bull from the county animal shelter. He was told the shelter did not allow pit bull adoptions.
Of the judge’s May 21 decision, Litz said, “If the judge doesn’t want to enforce Virginia law, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Litz had argued that the county was denying him the right of ownership of a pit bull, which is against Virginia law.
McCahill disagreed, saying that while state law may give county residents the right to own pit bulls, there is no right to adopt one.
Effectively, the sentence is a death penalty for any pit bulls who end up in Loudoun’s animal shelter and go unclaimed by owners.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 26th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animal rescue of tidewater, ban, best friends, bias, breed, breed-specific, bsl, burke f. mccahill, circuit court, decision, discrimination, ed fritz, euthanasia, euthanized, judge, law, lawsuit, ledy vankavage, loudoun county, lynne rhode, news, no-adopt, ohmidog!, opinion, ownership, pit bull, pit bulls, rights, ronald litz, ruling, state, virginia
Seldom, if ever, has so much weight been put on a single family’s choice of dog.
And seldom if ever has getting a dog – normally a personal and joyful affair — become such a public exercise in risk management and political correctness.
At first it was a simple campaign promise to his daughters, Sasha and Malia, that they’d get a dog after the election — only slightly complicated by the need for that dog, in deference to Malia’s allergies, to be hypo-allergenic, if there even really is such a thing.
Now there’s talk that the Obama’s eagerly anticipated choice of dog breed, or hybrid — Newsweek magazine’s April 13 issue says to expect some developments within the week — could lead not just to a surge in purchases of whatever breed they choose, but could cause a boom to the puppy mill industry as well.
The logic, as outlined by Newsweek, goes this way: If the Obamas get a Labradoodle — even a rescued Labradoodle — it will spark an increase in demand for the hybrid, and since most hybrids are bred by puppy millers, they’ll start churning them out to meet the demand, or in anticipation of it.
If the Obamas get a Portugese water dog — the other choice they’ve mentioned — the same thing would happen because not a lot of that breed can be found in shelters or rescue.
In other words, Obama can’t win. The fear is any breed, or hybrid, the First Family picks could have a “101 Dalmatians” effect: a sudden burst in popularity that breeders will try to capitalize on it by mass-producing similar dogs.
Even with Obama’s popularity, I think the fear is being slightly overstated — and I can’t think of any precedent for a president’s choice of dog leading to mass purchasing of the breed. I don’t think the presidency of younger Bush led to a surge in Scotties, anymore than the popularity of beagles was boosted by Lyndon B. Johnson. (History buffs, please correct me if I am wrong.)
Then again, with the Obamas, there are cute kids involved, and photo ops and, I’m sure, a media onslaught of tremendous proportions once the dog arrives, if how much coverage the issue (or non-issue if you prefer) has already gotten is any indication.
All this is another good argument for what was my personal preference, and really the only politically correct choice – a shelter mutt. That way, the only copycat surge would be in the number of people going to their shelters to adopt dogs that already exist and need homes.
Of course, that was before I decided it was none of my business – that, ideally, a family’s choice of dog should be left up to that family, not pundits, political pressure, or internet polls. Has any other president been held to this level of scrutiny — or any scrutiny at all — regarding his choice of dog? (Note to future presidential candidates: Get a dog before you start your campaign.)
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’m not sure, at this particular moment, if they’re Obama’s.
(Photo: Posters by Shepard Fairey)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, barack, breeders, breeds, choice, decision, dog, dogs, first dog, first family, hybrid, hypo-allergenic, labradoodle, malia, mutt, obama, pets, portugese water dog, president, presidents, pressure, puppy mills, sasha, white house