ANNAPOLIS — A Senate committee passed a measure Thursday to change state law in response to a court ruling that determined pit bulls are “inherently dangerous” animals.
The measure creates a strict liability standard for all dogs, regardless of breed. That means owners of all dogs would be liable for bites.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee advanced the bill to the full Senate on the first day of a special session, which has been called to focus on gambling legislation.
The bill addresses an April decision by Maryland’s highest court that created a breed-specific, strict-liability standard for owners of pit bulls or pit bull breeds. The ruling means a pit bull owner could be liable for a dog bite without previous evidence of a dog being dangerous. Plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit do not have to prove the dog’s prior violent behavior for the owner to be held liable.
The bill also reverses a part of the ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals that made landlords strictly liable for pit bull bites. The bill sets the standard of negligence for landlords that existed prior to the ruling. For example, negligence would have to be proven for a landlord to be held liable for a dog bite.
The Humane Society of the United States launched a campaign against the court ruling, saying Maryland is the only state that officially regards pit bulls as categorically dangerous.
The court’s ruling resulted from a Baltimore County case involving a 10-year-old boy who was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull in 2007.