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Maryland Lawmakers Revisit Court Ruling Deeming Pit Bulls 'Inherently Dangerous'

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Pit bulls expose their owners and their owners' landlords to liability issues in Maryland.
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Pit bulls expose their owners and their owners' landlords to liability issues in Maryland.

For the third straight year, the Maryland General Assembly will attempt to deal with a court ruling deeming pit bulls an "inherently dangerous" breed of dog.

Should their dog attack anyone, whether there's a history of the animal doing it or not, owners of pit bulls are now especially liable in court. Landlords who rent to them are too, and many owners of the breed fear they will be either evicted or have to give up their dogs. 

For the last two years, the General Assembly has considered bills that would reverse the ruling, but they've failed. This year Montgomery County Senator Brian Frosh thinks will be different.

"I think we've got a bill that fair to victims. Fair to pet owners. Fair to landlords. It's a compromise," Frosh says. "It looks like there's strong support for it in both the Senate and the House."

What's so unusual about this issue is the intense fighting it has sparked between lawmakers. Last year, Montgomery County delegate Luiz Simmons accused Frosh of reneging on a compromise he says they reached on the matter. Then on the last night of the session, Montgomery County delegates Ben Kramer and Kathleen Dumais started shouting at each other on the House floor when the bill failed to get a vote. 

Baltimore County Senator Bobby Zirkin blames the years-long delay on passing a bill squarely on members of the House.

"They are actually holding to the idea that if a dog hasn't bit somebody before that the victim — a blameless victim — would somehow in addition to being disfigured would now be responsible for their own injuries. And just because it was the common law," Zirkin says. "There were a lot of things that were common law. Like slavery."

Zirkin has introduced his own bill regarding the pit bull issue similar to the one that failed to pass the House last year.

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