Kramer to seek special session on dog bill

Benjamin Kramer and Kathleen Dumais

Dels. Benjamin Kramer, left and Kathleen Dumais, both Montgomery County Democrats, get into a heated exchange about the dog-liability bill on the House floor Monday night. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Del. Benjamin Kramer, whose opposition to legislation imposing near-strict liability on dog owners led to the measure’s death in the House, said he wants the General Assembly to have a one-day special session to pass legislation to relieve landlords of their strict liability for injuries caused by their tenants’ pit bulls.

Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat,  said he has not consulted yet with either Gov. Martin O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s and Calvert, or House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, on a special session. However, Kramer said he plans to send a formal request to the governor soon after meeting with fellow legislators.

Landlords, fearing strict liability, have forced tenants to choose between staying in their rental abodes or getting rid of their pets, Kramer said.

“We have an obligation and a responsibility to protect the family pets of our residents,” he said. Tenants “should not be put into that position. That’s what we have to stop.”

He added that providing relief to landlords from strict liability remains the unfinished business of the 2013 General Assembly session, which ended Monday.

O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said “the governor would likely have  a conversation with legislative leaders and the delegate” before committing to a special session.

Maryland’s top court imposed strict liability on landlords in its April 2012 Tracey v. Solesky decision, which also held pit bull owners strictly liable for injuries their dogs cause.

The Senate-passed legislation that died in the House as the General Assembly adjourned would have held dog owners, regardless of breed, liable for injuries their pets cause to children under age 13. Owners could escape liability only if the child had trespassed or provoked the dog. For people 13 and older, owners would have to rebut the presumption of liability by showing by a preponderance of the evidence that they had no reason to suspect their dog had a vicious propensity.

Kramer opposed the Senate bill, saying on the House floor Monday that the measure would unfairly make a dog owner liable whenever “little Fifi” nipped at a child. On Wednesday, Kramer said the Senate and House should reconvene to pass legislation on which he said both chambers agree: that landlords should not be held strictly liable.

Law blog roundup

Ruth Bader GinsburgWelcome to the Monday following a Blast of a weekend. Here are some items to get your week started.

– The Tennessee Legislature also has a dogfight.

– Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hits the big 8-0.

Gideon v. Wainwright hits the half-century mark.

– Israelis urge President Barack Obama to free a spy.

UM law students get their claws out

Anyone who’s gone to law school in the past five years or so knows the Internet-fueled distraction of the final exams period when it’s just you, some books and a computer for days at a time. Read outline. Check Facebook. Read outline. Refresh gossip blog. Read outline. Write e-mail to the law school listserv about your pet rock.

Ok, so some people get more batty than others. Or should I say, catty. Above the Law reports that law students at the University of Maryland started sending fake e-mails about pet-sitting after a visiting professor and two students solicited cat-sitters on the student listserv.

One student wrote:

Hey everyone-

I swear this is the last one of these. I’ve got this pet rock, George, that will need taking care of while I’m out of the country for a few months. He’s a 19 lb. granite rock that I pasted a mustache and googly eyes on, and I’m sure he’ll fall in love with whoever is kind enough to take care of him. He’s easy going—don’t worry about leaving him alone for a few hours at a time. My only request is that you fill his water bowl three times a day, and take him outside for fresh air in the morning and before his bed time, which is typically 7:30—I always let him watch Jeopardy with me! Of course, I’ll provide his bed, calcium pills, mustache comb, and extra glue (just in case).

After “Cat Lady” responded with her post about her 17 cats that need a sitter, another student responded as if she were law school dean Phoebe Haddon, saying, “I can understand a come-back e-mail, but if you’re going to risk your academic standing, at least make it funny.”

She ended with the disclaimer:

- this email was made for the express intent of scaring the crap out of the abovementioned individuals, and to show that law students can be funny but you, unfortunately, are not.

Ouch. Apparently we’ve moved beyond the good old bar exam lolcat for entertainment.

Law students: what else is going on over at UM law? Lawyers: what did you do during finals time?

Neglected horses galloping toward recovery

The surviving horses that were taken from Hilton and Donna Silver are well on their way to recovery,  a Baltimore County animal control official said Wednesday.

“They are doing phenomenal,” said Brooke Birman-Vrany, assistant director at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, which has housed the horses since April.

Birman-Vrany’s testimony was blocked by the judge after the Silvers pleaded guilty Tuesday to neglecting their stable of three. District Court Judge Robert J. Steinberg ruled that she would essentially be giving a victim impact statement on behalf of the horses, one of whom had to be euthanized.

Reached Wednesday, Birman-Vrany said the two surviving Arabians are exiting the “critical care stage” of their training program, with physical rehab that includes round-the-clock care and a strict feeding plan. They are now entering the “maintenance” stage of the program to re-learn how to handle a rider and generally be a horse for a new owner.

Birman-Vrany estimated the horses would be adopted by this time next year, based on the average horse’s stay at Days End Farm Horse Rescue.

The nonprofit organization currently cares for nearly 60 horses, almost all taken in through animal control offices around Maryland. The organization also in some cases takes in horses private owners can no longer care for, which is a growing problem in the current economy; Birman-Vrany said her office receives three calls a day from private owners.

“We’ve had a real increase in horse issues,” she said.

Birman-Vrany praised the work of Baltimore County prosecutors and animal control officers in the Silvers’ case, saying it has a set a precedent for horse neglect cases.

“I was very grateful for everyone who stood up for these horses’ welfare,” she said.

Note: Photo at top left is file art.

Multimedia: Gansler on dogfighting

dog-fighting-reward.jpgAt a press conference in Reisterstown earlier today, Attorney General Doug Gansler and the Humane Society of the United States announced a crackdown on illegal animal fighting.

Up to $5,000 will be given to anyone who provides information which leads to an arrest or conviction of someone involved in illegal animal fighting.

The announcement comes a year after former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted on federal dogfighting charges and two years after a Texas pitbull breeder was killed for the $100,000 he had won at a fight. Vick accepted a plea agreement last August and was sentenced to 23 months in jail.

A pitbull terrier named Kane was brought outside the Humane Society during the press conference as an example of a dog that is used for dogfighting.

This dog was about as gentle and friendly as you could get. With an array of cameras pointed in his direction, Kane continued to munch on the grass – and later spit up a wad of it during Gansler’s speech.

In Maryland, dogfighting is most prevalent in Baltimore City.

View a video of the press conference below.

RICHARD SIMON, Multimedia Reporter

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Fighting for Fido

vick_dog.jpg

Is dogfighting going on right under your nose? That’s what it seemed like Thursday after listening to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill that would make being a spectator at a dogfight or cockfight a felony, increasing the maximum penalty from 90 days to three years and max fine from $1,000 to $5,000.

According to supporters of the bill, dogfighting rings are alive and well “all over the state,” and the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

“When they go and do some of these undercover stings…a lot of these are several month operations,” said the bill’s sponsor Del. James E. Malone Jr., D-Howard and Baltimore County. “Sometimes police are a little leery of doing a 6-month investigation when they know they can only get a misdemeanor.”

And if you listened to the testimony, it seems like the fighting rings in Maryland have gone from being run out of one guy’s house to Michael Vick-esque, “Bad Newz Kennels” levels.

Continue reading

Unexpected victims of the sub-prime mortgage mess

istock_000002498725xsmall.jpgAs owners lose their homes to foreclosure, their pets, too, are losing shelter, the Chicago Tribune reports. The newspaper found several animal shelters that have seen an increase in pets given up for adoption after the owners are forced to find new, un-pet-friendly living situations. In some cases, the animals are left to starve when the owners walk away from a foreclosed property.

The Humane Society even issued a public statement this month about the situation. “This isn’t the first time we’ve seen people abandoning their pets,” Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Washington-based humane group, told the Trib. “But with this increase in foreclosures, we’re going to see more of it.”

Some former pets may be lucky enough to end up in the care of people like Robin Moro, a Cincinnati artist who created ForeclosureCats.org after adopting two abandoned cats last spring.

JACKIE SAUTER, Web Editor

Baltimore’s top dogs

crowned_lab.jpgThe Golden Retriever leap-frogged over the German Shepherd to wrestle the No. 2 spot away from the Boxer on this year’s list of the most popular dogs in Baltimore.

The American Kennel Club reports that for the 17th consecutive year, Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed in the country (aww… just look at that adorable face).

“Baltimore is considered a working-class port town whose roots run deep,” says AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. “So it’s no surprise that the Rottweiler—a member of the Working Group—would continue to move up Baltimore’s top 10 list.”

Here’s the top 10 registered breeds in Baltimore, compared to the rest of the country:

1. Labrador Retriever (Nationally: Labrador Retriever)

2. Golden Retriever (Nationally: Yorkshire Terrier)

3. Boxer (Nationally: German Shepherd)

4. Yorkshire Terrier (Nationally: Golden Retriever)

5. German Shepherd (Nationally: Beagle)

6. Pug (Nationally: Boxer)

7. Poodle (Nationally: Daschund)

8. Daschund (Nationally: Poodle)

9. Rottweiler (Nationally: Shih Tzu)

10. Bulldog (Nationally: Bulldog)

A Baltimore-area Border Collie, “Christopher,” will compete for Best in Show (and $50 grand) at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship on Saturday, Feb. 2. The show will air on Discovery’s Animal Planet from 8-11p.m.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Is there a “Buddy” waiting for you?

Here’s a warm and fuzzy story for the holiday season.

A news release from Petfinder.com, of Silver Spring, which describes itself as “the largest online database of adoptable pets,” and whose parent is media giant Discovery Communications LLC, lists the Top 10 Pet Names for cats and dogs that are waiting for adoption, collected from Petfinder.com’s more than 11,000 animal shelters and rescue group members.

No. 1 for dogs is “Buddy,” with 712 pooches so-named. And for cats in pet shelters, the most popular name is “Smokey,” with 291 felines bearing the moniker.

Here’s the complete list:

Continue reading

Dog owner gets $3,100 tab for bitten bark

A Pennsylvania man and his canine companion are being held accountable for the cost of three trees that fell victim to her penchant for bark.

The story, from the AP:

This summer, Tyler Port allowed his dog, Rossman, to run loose in a park. The dog apparently had a habit of chewing bark off trees, and Port was cited for failure to keep the dog under control.

John Iorio, the city’s dog law officer, also is seeking $3,100 to cover the cost of replacing three honey locust trees, which a consultant said may die.

“Rossman,” a pit bull, apparently also likes to hang from tree limbs by her teeth.

Do you think the dog and her 22 year-old owner should have to buy the Altoona park new trees?

Can’t wait to see what area dogs will do to the artificial turf fields that are on the way in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor