Category Archives: Court Cases

Oklahoma – Whispers of BSL on State Level

UPDATE:  In late breaking news –

“It’s a flawed animal! Frankly, I believe it belongs in a zoo.”  said Representative Paul Wesselhoft tells KOKH-TV Fox 25 in an evening report.

Wesselhoft authored a state bill a few years ago targeting pit bull owners.  The measure gained no support.  Today, he’s inspired to re-introduce measures that would impose tougher punishments for pit bull owners.

We will monitor this situation, if the measure appears to gain any ground at all we’ll provide you with contact information.

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In 2011, Midwest City OK’s BSL was struck down by OK Supreme Court after a resident sued.  The long standing ban was found unconstitutional.

Wednesday night an Oklahoma City woman was alledgedly fatally wounded by her granddaughters pit bull after it broke free from a cage during a severe thunder storm.

Now, another resident that claims he was attacked 2 years ago by yet another dog is speaking out in support of state law that would ‘make sure it never happens again.’

Elliot says, “I think  you have a right to own a pit bull dog, I’m not saying that you don’t.  But the dog has a propensity to be more aggressive by nature.”  Elliot thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believe there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose.

According to Okalohoma state law §4-46

“B. Potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs may be regulated through local, municipal and county authorities, provided the regulations are not breed specific. Nothing in this act shall prohibit such local governments from enforcing penalties for violation of such local laws.”

Per the State Supreme Court’s Ruling in March, 2011, ‘Home Rule’ does not provide any local government to enact BSL or supersede the state law.

“Pit Bull Attack Victim Wants Law

Oklahoma City Police continue to look into what caused a dog to attack and kill a woman in her own apartment Wednesday night. Police say Nellie Davis died after her granddaughter’s pit bull broke out of its kennel and attack her. Investigators believe a thunderstorm that night set the dog off.

Now another victim of a pit bull attack is coming forward to share his story. He hopes his story helps change state law.

Cecil Elliott says he was attacked by a pit bull two years ago. Elliott says the dog attacked while he was walking through his neighborhood. When Elliott heard about how Nellie Davis died from a dog attack, he says it brought back memories of his experience. Now he wants to make sure it never happens again. Eliott thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believes there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose….”

http://www.okcfox.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kokh_vid_7216.shtml

Oklahoma – Whispers of BSL on State Level

In 2011, Midwest City OK’s BSL was struck down by OK Supreme Court after a resident sued.  The long standing ban was found unconstitutional.

Wednesday night an Oklahoma City woman was alledgedly fatally wounded by her granddaughters pit bull after it broke free from a cage during a severe thunder storm.

Now, another resident that claims he was attacked 2 years ago by yet another dog is speaking out in support of state law that would ‘make sure it never happens again.’

Elliot says, “I think  you have a right to own a pit bull dog, I’m not saying that you don’t.  But the dog has a propensity to be more aggressive by nature.”  Elliot thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believe there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose.

According to Okalohoma state law §4-46

“B. Potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs may be regulated through local, municipal and county authorities, provided the regulations are not breed specific. Nothing in this act shall prohibit such local governments from enforcing penalties for violation of such local laws.”

Per the State Supreme Court’s Ruling in March, 2011, ‘Home Rule’ does not provide any local government to enact BSL or supersede the state law.

“Pit Bull Attack Victim Wants Law

Oklahoma City Police continue to look into what caused a dog to attack and kill a woman in her own apartment Wednesday night. Police say Nellie Davis died after her granddaughter’s pit bull broke out of its kennel and attack her. Investigators believe a thunderstorm that night set the dog off.

Now another victim of a pit bull attack is coming forward to share his story. He hopes his story helps change state law.

Cecil Elliott says he was attacked by a pit bull two years ago. Elliott says the dog attacked while he was walking through his neighborhood. When Elliott heard about how Nellie Davis died from a dog attack, he says it brought back memories of his experience. Now he wants to make sure it never happens again. Eliott thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believes there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose….”

http://www.okcfox.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kokh_vid_7216.shtml

Maryland: Court partially reverses breed-discriminatory decision

The Maryland Court of Appeals has partially reversed their decision in Tracey v Solesky. Whereas the original decision applied strict liability to owners of “pit bulls” and “crossbreed pit bulls” and their landlords, the reversal removes reference to crossbreed and mixed breed pit bulls. However, it leaves intact strict liability for owners and landlords of “pit bulls”—and the term “pit bull” remains undefined by the court.

The court’s reasoning is that the Tracey v Solesky case only involved dogs referred to as “pit bull,” “pit bull dog,” or “pit bull terrier.” The dogs were never referred to as mixes or crossbreeds, and the court can’t issue a decision that involves something that was not the subject of the original case; therefore, the court can only issue a decision about “pit bulls.”

Unfortunately, the decision as it stands still does not define “pit bull,” so it is impossible to know exactly which breeds are included in this ruling. Also, the court did not explain how a non-crossbred (i.e. purebred) “pit bull” could be proven to exist.

The court narrowed the application of the decision to a dog that is called a “pit bull” or “pit bull terrier.” The court’s designation of strict liability therefore only applies to those owners who consistently refer to their dog, or allow others to refer to their dog, as a “pit bull,” “pit bull dog,” or “pit bull terrier”—but the ruling does not apply to owners who call their dog a “mix” or a “cross.” Following the same reasoning that the court used to narrow their decision, the case did not involve, nor did the court name, any specific breed (only a non-breed, “pit bull”); therefore, strict liability might not apply to owners of purebred dogs who avoid shorthand breed references and always use a full breed name to refer to their dog (ergo, their dog is some official breed, not just a “pit bull”).**

**Mind you, I am NOT a lawyer, so don’t take this as legal advice. Rather, you can see how the court’s partial-reversal hasn’t cleared anything up, but instead has left us with an even more confusing mess.

HSUS Maryland has created a very helpful info sheet for Maryland renters with dogs: HSUS Info for Renters and Dog Owners

PBLN had a good discussion about the ruling at the beginning of their 8/21/12 radio show: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pit-bulletin-legal-news/2012/08/22/austin-no-kill-bsl-dbo-brent-toellner-ryan-clinton-1

I’m sure other organizations will have good discussion of the court’s revised decision and its possible effects over the next few days.

We will be interested to see how the Maryland legislature addresses this mess during the next legislative session, which will begin in January.

You can read the court’s Motion for Reconsideration decision here: http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2012/53a11re.pdf

Court partly backs off pit bull ruling

Judge admits error in applying decision to cross-bred dogs

By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
12:08 p.m. EDT, August 21, 2012

Maryland’s highest court on Tuesday partly backed off its widely criticized April decision that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, admitting that it went too far when it applied its ruling to cross-bred dogs.[…]

In a decision written by Judge Alan M. Wilner, the court stood by its finding about purebred pit bulls but canceled its reference to cross-breds.

Wilner, a retired judge who sat with the court on the original case, wrote that having re-read the briefs and the dissent in the case, he now believes the decision to extend the ruling to cross-bred pit bulls was “both gratuitous and erroneous.” […]

Wilner said nothing in the court record showed that Tracey had ever contended the animal was anything other than a pit bull terrier. […]

Full article retrieved 8/21/12 from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-pit-bull-decision-20120821,0,4806033.story

Maryland: Special session ends, dog bite bill fails to pass

The Maryland Senate and House each voted overwhelmingly for their own version of the “dog bite” bill. Both versions would have reversed the breed-discriminatory Solesky court decision.

Unfortunately, they could not agree with each other over the final version. The special session ended with the House and Senate at an impasse.

Part of the problem lies in the extremely short time frame that is typical of special sessions. Although legislators overwhelmingly agreed that the court decision was wrong and needed to be reversed, they had very little time to consider their options or work out differences of opinion.

The legislature will undoubtedly take up this issue again during the regular legislative session, which begins in January 2013. Hopefully they will be able to come to agreement at that time, and get a meaningful bill passed.

In the meantime, the Court of Appeals decision in Solesky, which imposes strict liability on “pit bull” owners and landlords, is NOT yet in effect. The court decision is on hold following a Motion for Reconsideration.

You can read more about the Maryland special session outcome here:
Baltimore Sun coverage: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-pit-bull-bill-tuesday-20120814,0,4170156.story
WBAL coverage: http://www.wbal.com/article/93006/2/template-story/House-Passes-Extended-Gambling-Dog-Bill-Wont-Pass

Manchester, MO: Resident sues city for “unconstitutional” BSL

Manchester Sued Over Dog Ordinance

In a recently filed lawsuit, a resident claims Manchester’s pitbull ordinance is unconstitutional and vague.

By Carlos Restrepo
August 10, 2012

[… Manchester resident] McRoberts said in the lawsuit that her dogs were only characterized by Manchester police as “vicious” based on their appearance, not the actual breed or behavior of the dogs. The lawsuit states that appearance is subjective and open to interpretation, which gives Manchester too much discretion over what constitutes a vicious dog.

“…and thus violates the plaintiff’s constitutional rights (of due process),” the lawsuit states. […]

McRoberts seeks for the court to declare Manchester’s ordinance unconstitutional and to be refunded for expenditures relating to this lawsuit. […]

Full article retrieved 8/12/12 from http://townandcountry-manchester.patch.com/articles/manchester-sued-over-dog-ordinance

Maryland update: House will consider bills to reverse breed-discriminatory court decision, Aug 13

The Maryland Senate has passed the “dog bite bill” in an attempt to resolve the many problems caused by the recent Tracey v. Solesky court decision. Among other changes, the Senate bill moves all dog owners to strict liability, regardless of the dog’s breed.

The Maryland House will take up the issue on Monday, August 13. There are four different House bills dealing with this issue: HB 2, HB 3, HB 4, and HB 5. These bills are all slightly different. Only HB 2 moves all dog owners to strict liability (like the Senate bill). The other three proposals would restore common law liability.

There’s no question that most Maryland legislators DO want to undo the Solesky court decision. But they don’t all agree on how that should be done. Some legislators and individuals have valid concerns about the Senate bill and the hasty move to strict liability. Others feel that something is better than nothing. All are concerned that the effort to fix the court ruling will fall apart if they can’t reach consensus.

The House bills can be read here:
HB 2: http://mlis.state.md.us/2012s2/bills/hb/hb0002f.pdf
HB 3: http://mlis.state.md.us/2012s2/bills/hb/hb0003f.pdf
HB 4: http://mlis.state.md.us/2012s2/bills/hb/hb0004f.pdf
HB 5: http://mlis.state.md.us/2012s2/bills/hb/hb0005f.pdf

Maryland: Bill to repeal breed-discriminatory court case to be discussed Aug 9 & 10

The second special session of the Maryland legislature begins on August 9. As we hoped, the legislature will attempt to resolve the many problems caused by the recent Tracey v. Solesky court decision, which imposed strict liability on “pit bull” owners and their landlords but did not do the same for owners of any dog that does not look like a “pit bull.” (The court decision is not in effect yet.)

Unfortunately, we have not been able to get the draft bill, so we can’t talk specifics. According to the bill authors, the proposed bill would impose strict liability on all dog owners, regardless of their dog’s breed, and would reverse the liability that was imposed on landlords. We do not know whether the new draft bill includes a clause to prohibit municipalities from passing BSL, as one of the draft bills from the first special session did.

Special sessions are extremely short, and already concerns have been raised that there’s not enough concensus among legislators to get the bill pushed through so quickly:

Although Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, said he’s “optimistic” that a bill could pass during the special session that starts Thursday, he cautioned that the issue is complex and could be derailed if opposition arises.

Frosh said that he does not believe there would be time in a special session to consider multiple bills and amendments. “If there is not a broad consensus, this is not going to happen,” he said.

Retrieved 8/8/12 from http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-08-06/news/bs-md-special-session-weighs-pit-bulls-20120806_1_pit-bull-dog-owners-aileen-gabbey

Maryland residents can contact their Senators and Delegates and urge them to take action to reverse the Solesky decision. Supporters can also attend the following committee hearings to show their support in person.

The following meetings are scheduled:

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee
When: Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 1:00 PM
Where: 2 East, Miller Senate Building, 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD
Subject: Hearing on 3lr3512 – Civil Actions – Liability for Personal Injury or Death Caused by Dog (Senators Frosh, Raskin, and Gladden)
NOTE: Anyone wishing to testify on this bill must sign the witness register before 12:45 P.M. If you have written testimony, please submit 20 copies to the staff for distribution by 12:00 P.M.

House Judiciary Committee
When: Friday, August 10, 2012 at 1:30 P.M.
Where: Room 100, House Office Building, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD
Subject: Bill Hearing on Pit Bull Legislation

The following rally is also planned for August 9 in Annapolis. Please visit the link for all the details. https://www.facebook.com/events/441943509183265/

Good luck in Maryland!