Category Archives: Maryland

Maryland HB 422 hearing overview

The House Judiciary Committee met to hear HB 422, a bill that would prevent breed discriminatory laws on the state level.

According to the bills sponsor, the bill was submitted due to the Solesky decision.   The bill, which if it remains as is, would outlaw breed discriminatory laws on the state level, repeal existing ordinances and prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenets with certain breeds of dogs.

The bills sponsor pointed out the some of the numerous issues caused by BDL and the precedent of the 17 states that currently outlaw BDL and the additional states that are considering anti-BDL bills this year.

Right away one member of the committee raise the issue of Prince George’s County and what would happen to their ban.  The sponsor stated that it was her intention that existing ordinances would be grandfathered in, but the language of the bill does not allow for that.  The bills sponsor said that she would amend to clarify that issue.

It is important to note that the Chief of Prince George’s County Animal Management Division was present and testified in support of the bill.  He was asked to testify for the bill by the head on the Animal Management Services Division.  During what was a compelling testimony, he stated that 793 dogs were confiscated under the ban in the 2013 fiscal year.   Roughly 75% of confiscated dogs were euthanized.  $250,000 have been spent in Prince George’s County on enforcement of the ban in 2 years.  He also testified that the number one biter was either labs or cocker spaniels.  He stated that the ban has done nothing for Prince George’s County but separate well-behaved dogs from good families and that the focus needs to be on effective solutions.  He testified that the ban has not worked for Prince George’s County.

The portion of the bill which was most hotly contested was the portion relating to landlords.  Many people testified in support of the bill, with the exception of that particular portion.  Considering that the legislature has failed to address the effects of the court ruling, that particular portion of the bill would put landlords in an impossible position.  Again, amendments were suggested to remove the language pertaining to landlord discrimination.

Many people testified in support of the bill, but very oppose it.  Not surprisingly, Tony Solesky, whose son was the center point in the appeals court ruling, testified against.  There was a pattern during that day’s hearing.  There were many bills regarding dangerous dogs that were heard.  Tony Solesky testified against every single one regarding dangerous dogs, and spent the entire time focusing on breed instead of lobbying for effective solutions that have a chance of effecting change, and passing through the process.

For example, HB 371 was heard.  This bill is to strengthen the dangerous dog laws in breed neutral way.  Increasing penalties, and strengthening the requirements for those who have dangerous dogs.  Solesky testified against strengthening the dangerous dog laws because it was breed neutral and behavior based and tried to lobby for the bill to be breed based, saying that Maryland should be able to “…simply eliminate certain breeds of dogs the same way we eliminate, why wild animals aren’t allowed among us.”

This stark opposition to any form of solidifying the dangerous dog laws in a breed neutral way is confounding.  Victims are no more or less of a victim if they are attacked by one type of dog or another.  We point to this specifically in order to show that the issue is not really about public safety for the pro-BDL lobby.

Maryland legislators have heard a lot of information about the failures of breed discriminatory laws over the last few years.  Many of them come into the hearing for HB 422 extremely well versed in the failures and short comings of such legislation.

As things stand now, the committee has not acted.  Because the sponsor has said that she is drafting amendments to the bill, it is possible that the committee will not act on the bill until that is done.

Residents of Maryland please reach out and write a brief letter of support for this bill to the committee.

Joseph.vallario@house.state.md.us
Kathleen.dumais@house.state.md.us
Curt.anderson@house.state.md.us
Sam.arora@house.state.md.us
Jill.carter@house.state.md.us
Luke.clippinger@house.state.md.us
John.cluster@house.state.md.us
Frank.conaway@house.state.md.us
Glen.glass@house.state.md.us
Michael.hough@house.state.md.us
Kevin.kelly@house.state.md.us
Susan.lee@house.state.md.us
Susan.mccomas@house.state.md.us
Mike.mcdermott@house.state.md.us
Keiffer.mitchell@house.state.md.us
Neil.parrott@house.state.md.us
Samuel.rosenberg@house.state.md.us
Luiz.simmons@house.state.md.us
Michael.smigiel@house.state.md.us
Kris.valderrama@house.state.md.us
Geraldine.valentino.smith@house.state.md.us
Jeff.waldstreicher@house.state.md.us

Advertisements

Maryland HB 422 would prohibit breed discriminatory laws on the state level

A bill that has been introduced in Maryland that would prohibit breed discriminatory laws on the state level is being heard by the House Judiciary Committee today.

The catalyst for this bill is likely the situation with the Maryland court of appeals ruling that found “pure breed pit bulls” to be inherently dangerous, and that landlords were to be held strictly liable if a tenants “pit bull” caused injury to some one.

HB 422 , a bill which currently has 10 sponsors, would do several things.  The first is that it would prevent municipalities from enacting dangerous dog laws on the local level that single out any one breed or type of dog.  This bill would also prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to a person based on the heritage of their dog, as well as protecting renters from eviction because of their dog.

This is the first state-wide bill to specifically address landlord discrimination in rental practices based on the appearance of the dog.  It is not surprising that this would come out of Maryland at this time, considering the issues that have arisen out of the Tracey v Solesky ruling.

The pertinent text of the bill is listed below.   

” (B) A MUNICIPALITY MAY NOT:
(1) ADOPT AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING A PERSON FROM OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE; OR
(2) DETERMINE A DOG TO BE A NUISANCE, POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS, DANGEROUS, OR INHERENTLY DANGEROUS, OR OTHERWISE REGULATE A DOG BASED ON THE BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE OF THE DOG.

12 13–102.1. (A) THIS SECTION MAY NOT BE CONSTRUED TO PROHIBIT A COUNTY FROM RESTRICTING THE OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING OF A DANGEROUS DOG, AS DEFINED IN § 10–619(A) OF THE CRIMINAL LAW ARTICLE, OR A DOG THAT HAS BEEN DETERMINED TO BE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS IN ACCORDANCE WITH § 10–619(C) OF THE CRIMINAL LAW ARTICLE.
(B) A COUNTY MAY NOT:
(1) ENACT A LOCAL LAW PROHIBITING A PERSON FROM OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE; OR
(2) DETERMINE A DOG TO BE A NUISANCE, POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS, DANGEROUS, OR INHERENTLY DANGEROUS, OR OTHERWISE REGULATE A DOG BASED ON THE BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE OF THE DOG…

(C) REGARDLESS OF THE TERMS OF ANY CONTRACT, DEED, COVENANT, RESTRICTION, INSTRUMENT, DECLARATION, RULE, BYLAW, LEASE AGREEMENT, RENTAL AGREEMENT, OR ANY OTHER DOCUMENT, A HOMEOWNER OR TENANT MAY NOT BE:
(1) PROHIBITED FROM OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE; OR
(2) DENIED OCCUPANCY IN OR EVICTED FROM RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY SOLELY BECAUSE THE PERSON OWNS, KEEPS, OR HARBORS A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE.”

This bill also specifically addresses current breed discriminatory ordinances, and would nullify them. This means that any and all existing breed discriminatory laws would be repealed by this bill.

Nothing in the bill prohibits any municipality, or landlord from rejecting dogs that have proven, based on their behavior, to be dangerous.

One of the largest issues effecting shelter populations of typically targeted dogs is a lack of pet friendly rentals.  This bill is an opportunity to address this problem and will set the precedent for other states to do the same, as well as repealing the long-standing breed discriminatory ordinances in Maryland.  The bill is set for its first hearing today.  Local groups have been working hard on support for this bill.

When the hearing is completed, we will know more specifically what is needed from Maryland residents in order to help support passage of this bill.

Emergency bill filed in Maryland to reverse appeals court ruling

Last year a bill that would reverse the Maryland appeals court ruling that “pure breed pit bulls” are inherently dangerous failed to pass at the last-minute amidst disagreement over what the standard of liability for dog owners should be in Maryland.

The ruling in the case of  Tracey v Solesky stems from a dog attack in which a young child was seriously injured by a dog belonging to a renter.  A protracted legal battle ensued and eventually made it to the highest appeals court in Maryland.  A 4-3 ruling by the court declared that both pure breed and mixed “pit bulls” were inherently dangerous and landlords were automatically liable for damages caused by a tenants “pit bull.”  However, on motion for reconsideration, the ruling was changed to only “pure breed pit bulls,” which was undefined by the court. The ruling has had far-reaching consequences for owners of muscular, short-haired dogs.  Shelters reported increased in-take, and landlords began to threaten eviction.

Legislators had vowed to address the issue in the 2014 legislative session when their attempts in 2012 and 2013 failed.

To be clear, these attempts did not fail because of opposition to addressing the breed based language of the ruling nor did they fail because of any opposition to addressing the liability imposed on third parties by the court of appeals ruling.  They failed because of differing opinions on what if anything should be done with the standard of liability for dog owners, should it revert back to the common law before the ruling, become strict liability or meet in the middle.

HB73, Personal Injury or Death Caused by Dog – Rebuttable Presumption, has been filed as emergency bill and is sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Luiz Simmons.   As an emergency bill, if passed through the full legislative process, the bill would go into effect immediately upon passage.

Because of the repeated stalemates between the House and the Senate on what the standard of liability for dog owners should be, HB 73 has been drafted as a compromise between the two sides of the issue.  The bill raises the standard of liability from the former common law, what is commonly referred to as a “one free bite rule,” but stops short of strict liability, giving dog owners the ability to defend any allegations that the dog is dangerous by creating a rebuttable presumption.  Briefly, this means that in the case of a dog related incident a court would assume that the owner knew the dog was dangerous but the owner has the opportunity to prove that they had no prior knowledge of a dogs dangerous or vicious propensities.

HB 73 is set to be heard by the House Judiciary committee on January 23rd at 1pm.

Local groups are urging those who live in the districts of the members of the House Judiciary Committee to reach out as a constituent and ask them to support this compromise bill.  

The committee members district information is below.  If you live in one of these districts contact the appropriate legislator to politely but urgently let them know that Maryland needs a solution. Other Maryland residents are also encouraged to call or write their legislators to urge them to support this bill.

You can find your Representative on the state’s website by clicking the “Who Represents Me?” link on the top right of the column of Representatives.  Legislators on the House Judiciary Committee are listed below alphabetically by name, followed by their county and district number.  Contact information is available by clicking on the name.

Anderson, Curt– Baltimore City, 43
Arora, Sam– Montgomery, 19
Carter, Jill P.-Baltimore City, 41
Clippinger, Luke-Baltimore City, 46
Cluster, John W. E., Jr.-Baltimore, 8
Dumais, Kathleen M. (Vice Chair)-Montgomery, 15
Conaway, Frank M., Jr.-Wicomico and Worcester, 40
Glass, Glen-Hartford and Cecil, 34a
Hough, Michael J.-Frederick and Washington, 3b
Kelly, Kevin-Allegany, 1b
Lee, Susan C.-Montgomery, 16
McComas, Susan K.-Harford, 35b
McDermott, Michael A.-Wicomico and Worcester, 38b
Parrott, Neil-Washington, 2b
Rosenberg, Samuel I.-Baltimore City, 41
Simmons, Luiz R. S. -Montgomery, 17
Smigiel, Michael D., Sr.-Kent, Queen Anne’s, Cecil, and Caroline, 36
Swain, Darren M.-Prince George’s, 24
Valderrama, Kriselda-Prince George’s, 26
Valentino-Smith, Geraldine-Prince George’s, 23a
Vallario, Joseph F., Jr. (Chair)-Prince George’s and Calvert, 27a
Waldstreicher, Jeff-Montgomery, 18

Thank you Pauline and Tami for the information on HB 73.

Maryland bill to address breed discrimination by insurance tabled

A little while ago we issued an alert for a bill that was introduced in Maryland to prevent breed discrimination by insurance companies.

As a result of the hearings on this bill the committee has decide to table the bill to wait and see what is any effects the court of appeals ruling of Tracey v. Solesky will have on dog owners in the insurance market.

Tabling a bill is not uncommon, and is usually done as a measure to gather more information so the bill does not have to be refiled and start over from the beginning.

While this is not necessarily the best outcome it is not the worst either.  Legislators have shown a willingness to keep the matter open for discussion.

Best Friends alerts for Maryland and Connecticut

Best Friends Animal Society has issued the following alerts:

Maryland: A bill has been introduced that would prevent insurance companies from discriminating against both home owners and renters based on the breed of their dog. Under this bill an insurance company would be prohibited from refusing to renew or refuse a policy based solely on the breed of the applicants dog. It would also prohibit insurance companies from refusing liability coverage for damages cause by the dog of the insured.

Maryland residents, please reach out to your representatives via the Best Friends action alert form. Let them know you want them to support SB296.  This bill would not only protect dog owners but it also protects victims of dog bites from all breeds by making sure the insurance company must take care of their expenses. This would be a great step forward for any community but especially for Maryland after the impact of Tracey v. Solesky.

A hearing has been scheduled for February 5th which is the same date as the hearing for SB 160 the Senate bill to address Tracey v. Solesky. Reach out and let your voice be heard.

Connecticut: A bill has been introduced that would allow communities to institute dangerous dog laws as long as they are not breed specific. The passage of this bill would be a great step forward for all the people of Connecticut, dog owners and non-dog owners alike.

HB 5975 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Planning and Development.

Best Friends has set up another easy to use contact form for Connecticut residents to express support for HB 5975.

Connecticut residents, please reach out and tell your representatives that you want them to support this bill.  More states recognizing the need to outlaw breed specific legislation but the voice of the people is needed to confirm they are doing the right thing.

Best Friends alerts for KY, OK and MA

Best Friends has issued alerts for residents of Kentucky, Oklahoma and Massachusetts. If you reside in one of these states, use Best Friends’ quick and easy letter writing tool to take action and let your voice be heard:

OKLAHOMA

A bill has been proposed in the Oklahoma legislature that would authorize governing boards of incorporated municipalities to restrict ownership of any breed of dog within municipal limits. SB32 declares that an emergency exists, and the Bill is immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety. Oklahoma statute Title 4, §4-46 currently prohibits local, municipal and county authorities from regulating dogs based on breed.

OKLAHOMA RESIDENTS: Take a stand to protect your rights, your community, and your pets. Please let your state legislators know that you oppose OK SB 32.

Best Friends action alert and letter writing tool to contact officials:
http://www.capwiz.com/bestfriends/issues/alert/?alertid=62325486

MASSACHUSETTS

Boston officials have filed a bill that would reverse the provision on the recently enacted Animal Control Act that prohibits breed specific legislation in the state of Massachusetts.

Best Friends action alert and letter writing tool to contact officials:
http://www.capwiz.com/bestfriends/issues/alert/?alertid=62327731&type=ST

KENTUCKY

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Supreme Court interpreted Kentucky statutes as permitting a landlord to be held liable when a tenant’s dog attacks someone on our about the leased premises. In a plurality opinion, the Court determined that the landlord can be considered the statutory owner of the dog if the landlord has permitted the dog to be kept on the leased premises. A copy of the full opinion can be read here.

KENTUCKY RESIDENTS: Ask your legislators to pass HB 15 or HB 101 to help Kentucky renters keep their pets.

Best Friends action alert and letter writing tool to contact officials:
http://www.capwiz.com/bestfriends/issues/alert/?alertid=62326781

Maryland Legislature Proposes Bill to Reverse Solesky Decision

The Maryland legislature has proposed a bill that would reverse the Solesky v. Tracey Court of Appeals’ ruling finding pit bulls “inherently dangerous.” The bill is breed neutral, and it doesn’t hold landlords liable for tenant dog attacks. The reality is that the Solesky decision has resulted in landlords refusing to rent to pit bull owners.

The bill limits liability, allows owners to prove there was no prior evidence of violent behavior, and allows for defense of the animal’s behavior.

A hearing will be held on HB78 on January 30, 2013.

The Senate companion bill, SB160, has not yet been set for a hearing, but it looks to be in line to be heard at or around the same date as the House bill.

If approved, the bill will pass as emergency legislation and take effect immediately.

MARYLAND RESIDENTS: Please reach out to your respective legislators and encourage them to support the compromise bill which would reverse the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling and return the state to the law as it existed before the Court’s ruling.

Residents of Maryland can find their legislators here.

We have discussed the twisted legal journey of  Solesky v. Tracey in depth here. As soon as we can get a copy of the bill, we will publish and analyze it here on StopBSL. Stay tuned.