Pit Bulls and the Law

Categories :: Other Legal Issues

Update: On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, former Governor Martin O’Malley signed HB 73/SB 247 into law, which stopped singling out breeds of dogs and applies the law of responsibility of pet owners to all breeds. This new law was an emergency measure and took effect on the date it was enacted.  It undoes the decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals in the case of Tracey v. Solesky in which the Court held that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.  Just because a dog is a pit bull or mix does not automatically make an owner or landlord liable for damages any more.

In a suit for damages against an owner of a dog for injury or death caused by the dog, evidence that the dog caused the injury or death creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.  The judge in a jury trial may not rule as a matter of law that the presumption has been rebutted before the jury returns a verdict.

Generally, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog while the dog was running at large.  There may be an exception to this rule if the injury, death, or loss was caused to the body or property of a person who was (1) committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner; (2) committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person; or (3) teasing, tormenting, abusing, or provoking the dog.

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