Update on Maryland Pit Bull Law: Are They Still “Inherently Dangerous?”
Back in May of this year, Maryland’s highest court ruled that owners of pit bull dogs or pit bull mixes, as well as landlords who knowingly rent to tenants who own these dogs, are liable for damages stemming from attacks by the animals.
A subsequent opinion by the state’s attorney general’s office offered a temporary reprieve, staying the ruling, until the legislature could act. During a special session that commenced August 9, legislators reviewed the court’s ruling and introduced legislation to counteract it. Subsequently, the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 7 to 2 in favor of the new legislation, which would treat all types of dogs the same as far as liability, and reduce landlords’ liability to an older, limited standard.
The state Senate passed the bill. However, when it got to the house, delegates added a provision specifying the law would apply only to dogs who were running free. Since Maryland already has leash laws, it was unclear how the new law would actually change existing protections in the law. Senate members were unwilling to go along with the provision without review and debate, so the bill died when the special session adjourned.
The original court ruling is still on hold, and the Maryland legislature is expected to take up the matter again during the next regular General Assembly session.
In the meantime, renters with pit bulls and pit bull mixes are still nervous about whether or not they will be able to stay in their rentals or find new places to rent with their dogs. And many rental property owners and management companies are declining to renew the leases of pit bull owners, on the basis that they just don’t know what the court and legislature will do.