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Compromise On Maryland Pit Bull Liability Collapses

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Maryland lawmakers are trying to reverse a court ruling that pegs pit bulls as "inherently dangerous."
Rob Swatski: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rswatski/5819464442/
Maryland lawmakers are trying to reverse a court ruling that pegs pit bulls as "inherently dangerous."

A compromise in the Maryland General Assembly to reverse a court ruling declaring pit bulls "inherently dangerous" appears to have fallen apart.

Lawmakers in Annapolis have been unsuccessful since last year in craft a bill that would help pit bull owners and landlords who rent to them. This latest compromise would have extended the liability to all dogs that bite someone, a "breed neutral" approach. The Senate has since made a change to the measure after that compromise had been reached.

Montgomery County Sen. Brian Frosh says it is a small but very complex change.

"The presumption that is created in both the House and Senate bill... in the Senate bill it would have to be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence," Frosh says. "In the House bill, it would have to be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence."

In layman's terms, Frosh says the Senate bill has a slightly higher liability standard for dog owners. Republican E.J. Pipken fears passing a different version from that of the House.

"We'll show the House," Pipken says. "The House will turn around and trash the bill. And what will happen? We'll still have citizens still getting thrown out, we'll still have landlords on the hook for liability. And we will have solved nothing."

Frosh is more optimistic, believing a solution will be reached in a conference committee before the General Assembly adjourns next month.

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