Pitbull legislation will overturn Solesky case court ruling
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 12:33

Agreement reached by House and Senate

by Ben Boehl

    The Maryland House of Delegates gave final approval last week to legislation that would overturn the 2012 Court of Appeals ruling in Tracey v. Solesky under which all pit bulls were to be considered “inherently dangerous.”
    The House version of the bill (HB 73) and the Senate version (SB 247) bill would require owners of all dog breeds to be held liable if their dogs cause injury, death or loss.
    Additionally, the legislation would no longer hold landlords responsibility for dog attacks.
    The two bills passed unanimously in the House and Senate in March.
    It was expected that the bills would go to a conference committee to bring them into full agreement on details.
    The 2013 House bill required there be evidence that the dog caused 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.

The two chambers could not come to an agreement last year, and the court ruling was not overturned.
    State Sen. Norman Stone has worked on pit bull legislation and other animal issues during his years as a member of the Judiciary Committee. He said in March that he believed this would be the year that the House and Senate would come together and address the issues raised in the Solesky case.
    “I believe [both bills will remain intact],” Stone predicted to The Eagle at the time.
    Now that both houses have passed identical bills, the legislation will be sent to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley for his signature.
    The Humane Society of the United States issued a press release in support of the bill.
    “Passage of this compromise legislation ends this disgraceful era of court sanctioned canine profiling, in which families with pit bull-type dogs were forced to choose between their homes and their beloved pets,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland state director for the Humane Society.
    “Lawmakers voted against singling out par-
ticular breeds and in favor of raising the bar for all dog owners to protect victims of dog bites.”
    The  Tracey v. Solesky ruling involved 10-year-old Dominic Solesky, who was attacked and nearly killed by a pit bull in 2007. His father Tony Solesky has become an advocate for pit bull safety.
    The elder Solesky told The Eagle he was not surprised the bill passed after three years of debate, and that he is not unhappy with the change that broadened the bill to cover all dog breeds.
    He said that a golden retriever and a pit bull should be held to the same standards, though he added that pit bulls are much more likely to attack than most other dog breeds.
    “I’m absolutely elated to know my efforts in the court system have led to something that has never been done before in the nation.”
    “[This legislation] means that Maryland will not go back to common law,” Solesky said. “I’ve always wanted people to be responsible for their dogs.”