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
The outdated legal view of dogs as easily-replaceable “property” — worth no more than you paid for them — is slowly beginning to catch up with the times.
The latest indication of a change in judicial thinking came last week when California’s Second District Court of Appeals ruled that pets are fundamentally different than other forms of property.
“Given . . . the reality that animals are living creatures, the usual standard of recovery for damaged personal property — market value — is inadequate when applied to injured pets,” Justice Kathryn Doi Todd wrote in her opinion.
She added, “Animals are special, sentient beings, (and) unlike other forms of property, animals feel pain, suffer and die.”
The Court of Appeals ruling came in the consolidated cases of two pet owners — one whose dog was shot by a neighbor, and one whose dog was injured by veterinary negligence. Lower courts had ruled they were entitled to no more than the market value of their pets.
The appeals court decision reversed both cases. The new ruling permits owners of wrongfully injured pets to recover the “reasonable and necessary costs” of treating and caring for an injured animal, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which had filed amicus briefs in the case.
The first case involved a German Shepherd named Gunner, who was shot by a neighbor and whose leg had to be amputated, costing his family more than $20,000. The second case involved a Golden Retriever named Katie, whose intestine was nicked during a surgical procedure. The vet also left a piece of gauze in her body. The errors led to the dog having to receive emergency surgery that cost Katie’s family more than $37,000.
In both cases, the trial court limited the plaintiffs’ recovery to a fraction of what they spent to nurse them back to health — namely, their dogs’ market value.
“This decision is a significant step forward for companion animals and their guardians,” said Matthew Liebman, ALDF senior attorney. “The legal system is finally starting to catch up with how the majority of people feel about the animals with whom they share their lives.”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aldf, animal, animal legal defense fund, appeals, court, courts, dog, dogs, german shepherd, golden retriever, gunner, injuries, judicial, kathryn doi todd, katie, law, lawsuits, legal, market value, pets, property, ruling, value, view, wrongful
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
Well, maybe some of them aren’t, but for the sake of ease, and without regard to fact, let’s just lump them all together and proclaim them stupid.
That’s what they did, with pit bulls.
A troubling 4-3 decision by the state’s highest court last week deemed pit bulls and pit bull mixes inherently dangerous — a ruling that, on top of being ill-informed, could lead to trouble for pit bull owners everywhere.
One judge who went against the majority, Clayton Greene Jr., noted that how harmless a pit bull might be is no longer relevant when it comes to determining liability — a troublesome precedent, in his view.
“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,” Judge Greene wrote.
The majority decision singles out pit bulls and declares them all dangerous. It implies that owners of them, and the landlords who rent to those owners, should ignorantly assume, as the judges did, that they are lethal and unpredictable beasts. And it makes suing their owners much easier.
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 this new precedent, they can merely show that the owner knew their dog was all or part pit bull. That would be sufficient basis for a claim.
In other words, it’s no longer necessary to prove that a particular pit bull is dangerous, only that it’s a pit bull, or part of it is.
The ruling last Thursday came in the case of a 2007 attack on a child in Towson. According to the Baltimore Sun, 10-year-old Dominic Solesky was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bill and his family sued the dog owner’s landlord, Dorothy M. Tracey.
The Circuit Court judge threw out the claim, ruling there was no evidence that Tracey had been negligent. The Court of Special Appeals overturned the judge’s decision, and the Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling Thursday. The case will now head back to trial.
At a time when many jurisdictions are becoming more enlightened about pit bulls, the Maryland Court of Appeals decision assures that, in at least one area, they will be treated differently from all other dogs.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appeal court, attack, breed, court of appeals, dangerous, discrimination, dog, dogs, dominic solesky, judges, laws, lawsuits, liability, maryland, mixed, mixes, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, ruling, specific, towson
The Pennslyvania Department of Agriculture has revoked the kennel license of CC Pets, a Lancaster County puppy broker with a history of violations under its previous name.
Once known as Puppy Love, the kennel, owned by Joyce and Raymond Stoltzfus, has been the subject of investigations and lawsuits for at least 20 years, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
CC Pets sold more than 2,000 puppies last year, making it one of the state’s highest-volume dog dealers.
In 2000, the kennel was fined $35,000 by the state for selling sick puppies and misinforming buyers about the health or breeding qualities of the animals. In 2001, kennel owner Joyce Stoltzfus was cited for practicing veterinary medicine without a license. In 2005, the kennel was the subject of a consumer fraud settlement stemming from a lawsuit filed on behalf of 171 customers in seven states.
One of the agreement’s conditions was that Stoltzfus, had to identify herself and the business correctly to customers rather than use an alias. Her failure to comply with that condition led to the license revocation, officials said.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: agriculture, cc pets, dealer, department, investigations, joyce stoltzfus, kennel, lancaster county, lawsuit, lawsuits, license, order, pennsylvania, puppy, puppy love, puppy mills, settlement
Such, I think, is the case with the retractable leash.
After one brush with death — fortunately not my own — and lots of time spent disentangling other pets and my own, I put my retractable leash away more than a year ago, and haven’t used it since.
I had bought it at the recommendation of a friend, but after several uses, the disadvantages (entanglements, rope burns and the flying hockey puck effect) seemed to outweigh the advantages (giving the dog a wee bit more freedom, having my arm nearly jerked off less often.)
Evidence is mounting that retractable leashes — technically illegal in Baltimore, as they extend more than the mandated 8 foot leash maximum — may not be as good an idea as they originally appeared.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced one recall of retractable leashes. Last September, 223,000 “Slydog” brand retractable leashes were found to have metal clips that broke and flew off — like the one that struck and became lodged in the eye of Dereka Williams, a Dallas-area girl whose family has filed a lawsuit against Worldwise, Inc., the maker of the SlyDog retractable leash.
“She was like, ‘Mom, I can’t see! I can’t see!’” her mother Joy Williams told ABCNews.com.
Slydog has since fixed the problem and changed to plastic clips.
But according to the March 5, 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, retractable leashes — often banned from many dog events — have been causing ongoing injuries for years.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 26th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: amputations, burns, consumer, consumer reports, cuts, dangers, dog, dogs, injuries, lawsuits, leash, leashes, pet products, pets, recalls, retractable, retracting