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
A proposal to alter dog bite liability law in Maryland looks to be unraveling, the Washington Post reports.
Last month, the House of Delegates passed a bill to address a Maryland Court of Appeals decision declaring pit bulls “inherently dangerous” and holding their owners — unlike owners of any other dogs — automatically liable if their dog bit someone.
The House passed a bill that didn’t single out any breeds, but shifted the burden of proof in dog-bite cases — proving that a dog was known or should have been known to be dangerous — from the victim to the dog’s owner.
With negotations having taken place beforehand between members of the House and Senate, with its seeming bipartisan support, with it having passed the House unanimously, it appeared smooth sailing was ahead for the bill.
That hasn’t been the case.
The Senate has come up with an amended version of the bill that — while it doesn’t single out pit bulls — makes it “virtually imposible” for a defendant in a dog-bite case to prevail, according to the delegate who negotiated the bill through the House.
Del. Luiz Simmons (D- Montgomery) says his Senate counterpart had assured him the bill, as approved by the House, would have no problem: “He told me he agreed with the compromise, he told me not to worry about it. We had a deal.”
Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), who negotiated the bill for the Senate and is chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said that events had taken an unforeseen turn, leaving him in an “awkward position.”
The new provision — it requires owners to provide “clear and convincing” evidence that their dog was not dangerous before an attack — was proposed last week by Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Montgomery) and approved by a majority of Frosh’s committee.
Frosh voted against it, but says he doesn’t think the amendment hurts the bill.
After the bill arrived on the Senate floor Tuesday, there were attempts to delete Zirkin’s provision, but Zirkin fought them: “I love dogs but if my dog bites a little kid, I should be responsible,” he said.
The feuding could threaten the legislation’s chances of getting passed this session.
Members of the General Assembly failed to pass a similar bill during a special summer session, leaving the appeals court decision that pit bulls are “inherently dangerous” intact.
That court, ruling in a case involving the mauling of a 10-year-old Towson boy mauled by a pit bull in 2007, declared owners of pit bulls (and “third parties,” including landlords) automatically liable in the event that their dog bites or injures someone.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 13th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bill, compromise, court of appeals, delegates, dog bites, general assembly, house, inherently dangerous, law, liability, maryland, negotiations, pit bulls, pitbulls, proposal, senate, senators
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 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
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
When we hear about it, we like to pounce on big dog discrimination before it happens.
So let’s talk about Middletown, New York, where city officials think it would be a good idea to require all renters whose dogs tip the scales at more than 25 pounds to carry liability insurance.
This makes about as much sense as Wausau, Wisconsin’s two-dog limit, our topic Friday.
What fear-mongering, fact-ignoring, bandwagon-jumping city officials need to get through their heads, once and for all, is that it’s not the size of the dog, the breed of the dog, or even the number of dogs that cause dog problems — it’s the dog owner.
Be it “nuisance” or “danger” they are trying to protect us from, that’s who they need to be going after.
Not family’s like the Lecker’s in Wausau, who have four dogs, but bought a house not knowing the town limited households to two, and now face a choice between moving or ditching two dogs.
And not responsible dog-owning renters who, in the case of Middletown, might find themselves paying up to $300 a year to ensure any dog bigger than a breadbox.
Singling out breeds and setting arbitrary weight limits is doggie discrimination, pure and simple. (We’d argue the proposed Middletown law discriminates against renters as well.)
In Middletown, the Common Council is looking at a proposal that would require tenants to get at least $100,000 worth of liability insurance on dogs weighing over 25 pounds, according to the Times Herald-Record.
The proposed law is in response to a rising number of dog bites, city officials said. According to Mayor Joe DeStefano dog bites are covered under most homeowners’ policies, so the law would target only renters. The proposal doesn’t single out any breeds, but city officials have said they are concerned about the rising number of pit bulls in the city.
The city says there were 94 reported dog bites in Middletown over the past three years. Of them, 79 were from “large-breed” dogs, 37 of them from pit bulls or pit bull mixes. It also says two city employees have been attacked by pit bulls in recent months while on the job.
I wonder how many of those pit bulls were really pit bulls, as opposed to a convenient designation. I wonder, in the case of all those ”pit bull mixes,” why what else is in the mix isn’t mentioned. And I wonder, when it comes to those “large-breed” dogs doing the majority of the biting, if the city is referring to all dogs over 25 pounds.
But what I wonder most of all, since the requirement would do nothing to actually address the problem, is what purpose — beyond fattening up insurance companies — it would serve.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 19th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, big dogs, big dow owners, city, dangerous, discrimination, dogs, insurance, landlords, laws, liability, mandatory, middletown, new york, nuisance, pets, renters, required, requirement, tenants, wausau, wisconsin
Ohio Gov. John Kasich yesterday signed a bill that repeals the 25-year-old state law that automatically declared pit bulls vicious.
Once the new law takes effect, in 90 days, shelters will be able to allow them to be adopted, owners will no longer be required to buy additional liability insurance and pit bulls will be free of the restrictions imposed when the state declared them, based on their looks, a public enemy.
House Bill 14 was overwhelmingly approved 67-30 by the state House on Feb. 8.
In addition to dropping any reference to specific breeds, the new law redefines what makes a dog “vicious.”
The old law defined a vicious dog as one that, without provocation, has seriously injured a person, killed another dog, or belongs to the general breed of pit bull.
Dogs so labeled required additional liability insurance, restraints and were subject to other restrictions.
The new law revises the definitions for vicious, as well as the categories of “dangerous” or “nuisance” dogs. It also requires a dog warden to provide proof of why a dog deserves such a classification, and creates a process for dog owners to appeal law enforcement’s labeling of their dogs.
“A well-meaning but poorly conceived law is no more, and it represents a victory for Ohio dogs and their people,” said Gregory Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society, a Utah-based organization that opposes laws that discriminate against certain breeds of dog.
“It ends the practice of causing undue hardship to thousands of responsible owners of entirely friendly, properly supervised, well-socialized pets,” he added.
Best Friends said it hopes that the Florida’s legislature follows suit, and votes to change a similarly archaic law in Miami-Dade County, the only county in Florida where pit bulls are banned.
“The change in Ohio law truly signals a new day for dogs that for years have been discriminated against just because of their looks — the same type of discrimination that’s been going on in Miami-Dade County for years,” said Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney for Best Friends.
Legislation that would repeal the Miami pit bull ban is under consideration in Florida, and recently passed through two more committees.
Florida outlawed canine profiling in 1990, but Miami-Dade County’s 1989 pit bull ban was grandfathered in. Hundreds of dogs and puppies are seized and killed in Miami-Dade every year because of their appearance, Best Friends says.
Ohio was the only state in the country to declare a type of dog vicious, based solely on appearance with no consideration of behavior.
(Photo: A smiling pit bull, from the website Three Little Pitties)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, automatic, bans, best friends, breed, breed based, breed-specific, breeds, dade county, dangerous, definition, discrimination, dog, dogs, governor, inherent, insurance, john kasich, law, legislation, liability, miami, nuisance, ohio, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, profiling, redefine, repeal, restraints, restrictions, signed, vicious
(An update to this story can be found here.)
Apparently gunning down stray dogs on the streets wasn’t enough for the dog unfriendly officials of Cumberland County, North Carolina.
Now they want to slay, within 72 hours, every dog that comes into the shelter who is, or appears to be a mix of:
American Staffordshire terrier, Rottweiller, Akita, chow chow, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Great Dane, Presa Canario, Siberian husky or mastiff. There’s a convenient catch-all pit bull category as well.
They’re not doing it yet, despite what you may be reading on the misinformation highway.
But they’re talking about it.
The county’s Animal Control Board is recommending that authorities limit the adoption of the above dog breeds, or, as one county official referred to them, ”attack animals.” (Clearly, they haven’t met many Great Danes.)
The idea is only in the discussion stages, but many websites are reporting –erroneously — that the new policy goes into effect today.
“I’ve probably had 1,500 emails,” said John Lauby, director of Cumberland County Animal Control. (Here’s hoping he gets about 150,000 more.)
Lauby told a Fayetteville Observer columnist that misinformation on the Internet led people to believe the county will ban adoption of pit bulls and other breeds starting Monday, and immediately euthanize any members of those breeds in the shelter.
In reality, the county hasn’t taken that medieval step, it’s just considering it.
“We’re looking at a list of animals used as attack animals,” County Commissioner Charles Evans said. “It has been suggested that something needs to be done about those.”
The recommendation would have to make its way through a committe and then require approval by the county commissioners before going into effect. But it’s scheduled to be introduced at a meeting tonight. (6 p.m., at Cumberland County Animal Services, 4704 Corporation Drive, Fayetteville).
Lauby said animal control constantly receives calls from residents complaining about dogs behaving aggressively or running loose, preventing people from getting into their cars.
“We have an inordinate number of pit bulls in the county that are chasing people, chasing dogs, they’re on school grounds and generally bother people,” he said. “The reality is that about 80 percent of our calls are related to that particular breed.”
Complaints from the public also led Cumberland County to hire an outside contractor to capture stray dogs in and around Fayetteville — a massive roundup that started in August and, at last report, led to more dogs being gunned down than caught alive.
Fayetteville doesn’t have its own animal control department, instead relying on the county office to handle dog-related issues.
As I’ve implied before, that might be part of the problem — the problem, in my view, being not just too many uncontrolled dogs, but too many unenlightened public servants, who see dogs as foes and death as a solution.
Maybe it’s the army base influence. In any event, someone needs to usher Cumberland County into modern times.
In a way, the proposed policy — while it it lists some new ”public enemy” breeds, like the husky, and some returning ones, like the shepherd — would only formalize what’s already common practice in the county.
Since April, Cumberland County Animal Control has taken in nearly 1,300 pit bulls, but only 124 have been adopted. The shelter has taken in 180 Rottweilers since then, only 26 of whom were adopted. Of 96 chow chows received at the shelter since April, 15 have been adopted, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
The rest are euthanized.
Now, some want to make it official, banning the adoption of any of those breeds and guaranteeing a death sentence for all of them, or any mixes thereof — all based on what will likely be, judging from the wisdom they’ve shown so far, an uneducated guess.
In addition to complaints, worries about liability issues are also behind the proposal. The county fears it might be held responsible for any damage done by dogs adopted from its shelter. Most shelters handle that with a simple waiver.
If you’d like to give Cumberland County officials a piece of your mind — and it appears they could use it — continue reading for contact information.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoptions, aggressive, akita, american staffordshire terrier, animal control, attack animals, automatically, banned, bans, breed, breeds, bully breeds, captured, chow, contact, cumberland county, death, doberman, erroneous, euthanasia, euthanized, fayetteville, german shepherd, great dane, internet, john lauby, kill, killed, liability, mastiff, north carolina, petitions, pit bulls, pitbulls, presa canario, proposal, purge, reports, rottweiler, shelter, shot, siberian husky, strays, three days
At the Yale University Law Library, you can check out ”Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law.” You can check out “The Supreme Court A to Z: A Ready Reference Encyclopedia.”
Or, you can check out Monty, a terrier mix whose mission, in an experimental program started this month, is to de-stress, during final exam time, the litigators of tomorrow.
You’d think a genius farm like Yale University would have figured out sooner — as some smaller and lesser known colleges have — that dogs can, physically and emotionally, help students through troubled or stressful times.
But, for the school whose mascot is an English bulldog named Handsome Dan, it’s better late than never.
In the pilot program, students can check out Monty – a 21-pound “certified library therapy dog” who provides 30-minute sessions of what ABCNews describes as “unconditional, stress-busting puppy love.”
“The interest in available slots has been high,” said Jan Conroy, a spokeswoman for Yale Law School.
In a March 10 memo, law librarian Blair Kauffman said she hoped the free, three-day pilot pet therapy program would be “a positive addition to current services offered by the library … It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being.” The memo directed students to the website of Therapy Dogs International for more information.
The school has yet to decide if the program will be ongoing. Likely, it being Yale Law School, there are liability concerns — the type that are known to paralyze bureaucracies and often limit the good dogs can do, based on mostly baseless fears.
Monty, for example, though he is said to be hypoallergenic, will hold his visits in a “designated non-public space” in the library to eliminate “potential adverse reactions from any library user who might have dog-related concerns.”
Concerns have also been expressed about the sign-up list for Monty being in a visible spot. That, the overly fearful fear, results in students having to expose their need for a mental health session — or at least some time with a dog — in public.
Monty — whose full name is General Montgomery – belongs to librarian Julian Aiken. And the pilot program got started after a Yale legal blog jokingly suggested making Monty available for checkout.
Therapy dogs have been introduced at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Oberlin College in Ohio and UC San Diego to help students get through the pressures of mid-terms and finals.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 25th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog, exams, experimental, final, general montgomery, julian aiken, law school, law students, lawyers, legal, liability, librarian, library, mental health, mid term, monty, oberlin, pets, pilot, program, relief, stress, students, therapy, therapy dogs, tufts, university, yale
Indianapolis Councilman Mike Speedy plans to submit a “dangerous dog” proposal to the city-county council this month, calling for all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered.
His proposal also would require dog owners to purchase liability insurance if they mistreat their dog or fail to keep it confined — no matter what breed it is.
“Living with the fear of a serious dog bite, you’re not fully free to enjoy this great city or your neighborhood,” Speedy said. “The pit bull is the most abused breed in America and in Indianapolis, and when that breed is abused they are more likely to bite people in a devastating and life-altering way. If you reduce their numbers in a humane way through spay and neutering, you will reduce the bites.”
Speedy’s comments came in an Indianapolis Star article. The newspaper has reported that pit bull bites rose 33 percent in 2008 from the previous year and were three times higher than in 2006. Pit bulls also account for more bites and more severe bites than any other breed, the newspaper said.
Animal Care and Control Advisory Board Chairman Warren Patitz said he is opposed to the sterilization requirement and is “not enthusiastic” about the liability insurance provision, because it would make dog ownership more difficult for low-income residents.
“Targeting a specific breed isn’t in the best interests of anyone because we need to target individual behaviors and people and not breeds of dogs,” he said. The city’s new animal control director, Doug Rae, has instituted a policy to try to curb euthanizations, including among pit bulls. Humane Society of Indianapolis Executive Director John Aleshire also prefers laws that are not breed-specific.
It’s the second attempt in as many years to pass breed specific laws in Indianapolis. Last time around, after a pit bull nearly killed a local toddler, a council member proposed banning the breed from the city. A majority of council members opposed it.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 9th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, ban, breed-specific, breeds, city-county council, dangerous dog, dogs, humane society, indianapolis, insurance, liability, neuter, neutered, pit bull, proposal, spay, spayed, speedy, sterilize, sterilized