House and Senate come to agreement on pit bull bill
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 10:50

Bills pass unanimously in both chambers

by Ben Boehl

    It appears the House of Delegates and Maryland State Senate have finally come to an agreement on pit bull legislation.
    The legislative proposals came in the wake of a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling in Tracey v. Solesky in 2012 that called pit bulls and mixed pit bull breeds “inherently dangerous” and said that landlords could be sued over injuries caused by pit bulls on their properties.
    That ruling led to controversy after some landlords began turning away tenants with pit bulls, even if the specific dog had no history of attacking.
    The House and Senate unanimously passed bills to address the issue in 2013, but the two chambers would not come to agreement, and no legislation was enacted.
    The 2013 House bill required there be evidence that the dog caused a personal injury or death in order for the dog owner to be held responsible, while the Senate bill did not require there be any evidence that the dog caused the personal injury.
   

This year, bills with the same content passed both the Senate and House unanimously.
    The bills require evidence that the “dog had vicious or dangerous propensities” before action can be taken against the dog owner.
    These bills also hold the owner of a dog liable for injury, death or loss caused when a dog is running at large and do not hold landlords responsible.
    Del. John Olszewski Jr. told The Eagle he is glad that both chambers were able to reach an agreement.
    “The passage of the pit bull legislation represents a long-overdue victory for dog owners and lovers across the state,” Olszew-ski said.
    “While it is unfortunate that it took several years to accomplish, I am hopeful that the issues associated with the Solesky court case will finally be resolved for good because of it.”
    Sen. Norman Stone credits both committees in the House and Senate for working out the details to get on the same page.
    “The chairmen of the House committee and the Senate committee got together and came to an agreement on a  final bill.” Stone said.
    Stone, who serves on the Judiciary Committee and has closely followed pit bull legislation over the years, said he is happy that he will see legislation to address the issue in his final year in office.
    Stone’s legislative aide Michael Lore said there is a slim possibility that the bill could go to a conference committee, which has happened in the past, but Stone said it is unlikely the bill will change.
    “I believe [both bills will remain intact]. I’ve been down here a long time, so you never know what can happen,” Stone said.