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I hope all dogs go to heaven, too

As I’m sure most of you animal lovers already know, the Court of Appeals opinion has imposed strict liability on pit bull owners if their dog attacks someone.

In most cases of a dog attack, owners are only liable if they had reason to know that their dog was dangerous. But after this opinion, the attack victim only has to show that the dog was a pit bull or even part-pit bull and the owner will be automatically liable.

I read the opinion and am a bit confused why the court didn’t find liability based on vicious propensity considering the dog in question had exhibited vicious tendencies before this attack.

The law resulting from this ruling falls into the category of “breed-specific legislation.” Maryland is not the first state to have such laws and this isn’t even the first law against pit bulls in Maryland — pit bulls are banned in Prince George’s County. Other states have taken different legal approaches, for example requiring pit bull owners to complete a special registration of their animals and prove that they possessed a certain amount of liability insurance.

The American Kennel Club takes the stance that dangerous dog legislation must be nondiscriminatory. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand why pit bulls are considered dangerous and I feel for anyone who is the victim of a dog attack. I realize it is extremely traumatic and the injuries can be devastating. I don’t have a pit bull myself and do sometimes feel guilty/ hypocritical about having a different type of dog instead of a rescue pit. I didn’t think I’d be able to handle a bigger dog on my own living in the city without a yard.

But I hope I’ll have the resources to adopt larger breeds that need help. There are a lot of great organizations in the Baltimore area helping pits, such as BARCS, and I don’t think people need any disincentive to help this breed that desperately needs our help.

Check out this website if you want more information on the problems with breed-specific legislation.


  1. 1) “Dog breed” is not a constitutionally protected class.
    2) The Court of Appeals decision does not render a dog’s propensity for viciousness irrelevant. It simply indicates that owners of pit bulls will henceforth be on notice of that breed’s propensity for harm. The Court has made a policy determination that owners of these dogs can no longer claim ignorance if a dog causes injury. This is the same sort of reasoning that courts have used in holding that those who engage in blast mining or play with plutonium in their basements will be held strictly liable when they cause harm to others. At common law owners were always held strictly liable for injuries caused by their animals. In time, an exception was carved out for household pets. So really, what the Court has done here is to take pit bulls out of the household pet category.
    3. The ownership of any animal entails social responsibility, or should. Two years ago my mother’s very sweet little Jack Russell terrier was mauled to death by a neighborhood pit bull. So, anyone who wants to adopt a pit bull, or own one, or rent to people who have one, I say go right ahead, so long as you understand the responsibility you are undertaking to the community at large. And understand also that if your dog comes at me, or my kid, or my dog, I will beat it to death with whatever heavy object I can lay my hand to, and then you can tell me all about how badly the breed needs my help.

  2. isolde…your sick. Why dont you and your family stay in your yard that you responsibly made dog proof and if you had actually been responsible as a pet owner maybe that dog may still be alive today. You and your family failed as responsible pet owners when you let the dog escape your own yard. Before you cast judgement repent, and sure as hell dont admit your own culpability when you try to pass judgement on others man. Dogs play…15 pound russel terrier playing with a 80 pound dog…think of the simple physics. a small dog shouldnt be wandering and mixing with dogs who are larger and stronger. have you ever seen the damage a german shepard police dog BRED to be violent can do to a person? Dont hate a breed. I persnally hate small dogs. what use are they as a gaurd? what use are they if you are away and someone tried to break in? would you rather have that 15 pound dog or one that could, and would, defend your home, your family and property?

  3. 1) Neither the writer of the post nor the dissent in Tracey v. Solesky advocated for the position that “dog breed” is a constitutionally protected class.
    2) The Court of Appeals has imposed strict liability with regard to injuries caused by any and all pit bull or pit bull type dogs regardless of whether there was any objective reason to believe said dog was dangerous. Thereby, the decision at issue does render an individual pit bull or pit bull type dog’s propensity for viciousness irrelevant. Yes, previously at common law, owners were indeed held strictly liable for injuries caused by their pets. Both the majority and dissent in Tracey v. Solesky cited cases dating back to the 1800’s to make that point. While I’m sure the nineteenth century had its share of enlightened legal reasoning, I don’t think we should be in any rush to revisit that era’s bygone precedent.
    3) I could not agree with you more on pet owners and social responsibility. I only wish there was a way to weed out bad owners.

  4. Isolde, that is so very sad about your mother’s dog. That’s such a terrible thing to happen and my heart goes out to you.

  5. The true solution is promoting responsible dog ownership as well as exclusively punishing dog owners that take part in illegal activitiies…

  6. Thanks for commenting Dahlia, I agree. Sometimes changing the law to try and help a situation does more harm than good.