Dog Liability Bill Reluctantly Voted Out of Committee

The “dangerous dog” bill, Senate Bill 247, was reluctantly voted out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and will go on to the Senate for a full vote. As reported in the Gazette:

What this bill does is it moves the needle half-way,” [Committee Chair Sen. Brian E.] Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase said in an offline meeting Thursday night.

“Just because the House of Delegates or a member of it doesn’t like a bill and has exerted his will over the last couple of years, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the right thing,” Sen. Robert A. Zirkin said. “I don’t care what Del. Simmons thinks. We’re the Senate.”

In an impassioned speech, Zirkin (D-Dist. 11) of Owings Mills asked the committee to change Frosh’s bill back to the strict liability standard the Senate has favored in the past, saying that holding owners liable for harm caused by their dog is “the right public policy.”

“I agree, we would be best off under strict liability, it makes the most sense, but we’re not getting it. I’ve been to that train wreck twice. It’s not one delegate,” Frosh said. “There’s nobody who agrees with me or with Bobby who is strong enough, or loud enough, or capable enough to carry the ball and get it over the finish line in the House of Delegates.”

Passing strict liability will get Maryland nowhere, Frosh said. “We’ll be stuck where we are today.”

The unamended bill was advanced out of the committee Thursday night. As previously reported in Conduit Street, Senator Brian Frosh  and Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons co-sponsored the bill (HB 73/SB 247) which they hoped would break the two year impasse over “dangerous” dog-liability. The General Assembly was unable to come to an agreement on proposed legislation in either the 2012 Special Session or 2013 Regular Session, in large part due to debate over the strict liability standard. During the House public hearing held January 23rd on the much-discussed  bill, MACo joined with the Maryland Chiefs of Police to seek a reasonable exemption for trained police dogs over concerns there is potential increased liability for police dogs, which would have an impact on local law enforcement departments and county governments. MACo echoed these concerns at the Senate public hearing held February 6th.