Third Time’s The Charm: Dangerous Dog Bill Passed By General Assembly

After two years and one special session, the House and Senate came to a compromise and passed a bill to overrule the controversial court of appeals decision in Tracey v. Solesky. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

By an overwhelming margin, the House sent a Senate-passed bill to Gov. Martin O’Malley that eliminates the distinction between breeds created by the Court of Appeals in 2012 in the case of a child who was nearly killed by a pit bull. The bill would create a uniform standard for all breeds, easing the burden of proof for dog bite victims to show that a pet owner should have known the animal was dangerous.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the two year impasse began after the 2012 Court of Appeals decision Tracey v. Solesky, which overturned long-standing common law practices by holding that pit bulls and pit bull mixes were “inherently dangerous” and that their owners could be automatically liable for any damage caused by their dog. (The Court subsequently removed pit bull mixes from its ruling.)  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.

MACo testifed in support of SB 247 but sought 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. The specific language requested did not make it into the bill. However the bill was amended to include a provision protecting owners of dogs who attack a person committing or attempting to commit a criminal trespass against the owner’s property or a criminal offense against any person–providing some protection for police dogs.

For more information read the bill text, the bill page, or the full article in The Baltimore Sun.