Category Archives: Maryland

Annapolis MD – Legislative Task Force Workshop Announced

In May, the Maryland General Assembly created a task force to study the recent Court of Appeals decision that pit bull dogs and pit bull mixes are “inherently dangerous,” and to recommend possible legislation. The task force held a hearing and work session in June, but the General Assembly failed to pass legislation during the August special session.

Fortunately, they will be meeting again on October 25 to continue to work on hammering out legislation for January. This hearing will be open to the public and it would be great to have a large showing of support! Just a couple things to know if you plan to attend:

They will not be accepting oral testimony from the public. This is only a work session for the members of the task force (legislators) to discuss possible legislation.

Please be professional and polite. These legislators did not have anything to do with the Court of Appeals decision, but have been tasked with considering what to do about it — which is a good thing! We need to give them our support and encouragement.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1pm and it’s difficult to predict how long it will last.

Here is the location of the hearing:

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Hearing Room
Miller Senate Office Building, Suite 2E
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

For more information, please visit HSUS Facebook Event:

Tracey v. Solesky Task Force Work Session 

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

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!

North Beach, MD: Town council repeals breed ban

Ordinance Amended

The council voted unanimously to amend a town ordinance regarding dangerous dogs. The ordinance had previously banned pit bulls in North Beach. The revised measure prohibits “dangerous animals.”

The change is more in line with Calvert County’s Animal Control Ordinance, which includes statutes regarding ownership of “dangerous animals.” North Beach is served by the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, which includes an Animal Control unit. While county officials refused to enforce the town’s ban on pit bulls, North Beach Town Attorney John Shay said he has been assured by Calvert’s County Attorney John Norris that sheriff’s department employees “will cooperate” in the enforcement of North Beach’s revised ordinance.

Full article retrieved 7/17/12 from http://www.thebaynet.com/news/index.cfm/fa/viewstory/story_ID/28587

Please THANK North Beach officials for repealing their breed ban!

Contact info for North Beach officials
greggdotson@aol.com; mike@mikebenton.net; rmhummel@yahoo.com; gregorymcneill@yahoo.com; Gwen@CareerPuppy.com; kenwilcoxnb@gmail.com

All alerts for North Beach: https://stopbsl.org/?s=north+beach

East Coast bike relay event to protest BSL, Aug 29–Sept 2

Bless the Bullys Pit Bull Rescue & Education and Southern Ontario Animal Rescue (SOAR) invite you to take part in a unique effort to bring awareness to breed specific legislation, rescue, and responsible dog ownership.

Bikers and Bullys Without Borders” is a bike ride from Miami, Florida to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and is an effort to demonstrate a united stance against BSL. Just as BSL has no borders, the effort to stop it knows no borders, as well.

The ride is taking place from August 29 to September 2, 2012. It starts in Miami, FL and goes up the east coast finishing in Toronto, Canada.

We are dedicating the ride to Lennox and the Barnes family, the people who loved and fought to save his life. After a two year battle, Lennox was killed last week by the Belfast, Ireland council simply because he looked like a “pit bull.” We are having a stuffed Lennox made, and along each stop on the route, he will be handed off to the next group of riders, along with any notes of condolence and support to the Barnes family. After the ride, both the stuffed Lennox and all the cards and letters will be sent to the Barnes family to show that although we are separated by thousands of miles, we stand united with them in their fight, and we all mourn the death of an innocent animal.

You don’t need to be part of an animal welfare organization to take part in the ride…you only need to have a desire to see BSL come to an end so that no dog and no family ever face the heartbreak and anguish of breed specific legislation again.

SOAR is organizing the troops for a vote on the Ontario pit bull ban in September, and using the bike rally as a fundraiser for their efforts to end BSL there. However, those taking parts in the states can simply use the ride to bring awareness to the fight against BSL, and to promote rescue and responsible dog ownership.

We need every leg of the ride filled – even if its just one bike – so that Lennox and our messages to the family can make it to Canada. Please consider taking part in this very special event, and share this with your friends and bike clubs who may be interested in taking part. Just like the effort to stop BSL, we really need YOU to make this happen!

More information on the ride can be found at the SOAR website, or you can contact me at jodi@blessthebullys.com. The route for the ride can be found here.