This August, the state of Maryland’s Court of Appeals ruled that “pit bull” dogs are “inherently dangerous,” creating one of the most dog-unfriendly policies in the entire country. The ruling essentially states that if a “pit bull” dog injures someone, not only is the dog owner liable, but so is the owner of the property where the incident occurred.
Right now in Maryland, landlords, veterinarians, dog daycares, and groomers are being forced to consider banning pit bull type dogs from their properties, based on a false assumption about the aggression of these animals. The HSUS has spoken out against this ill-informed and destructive court decision and urged the state legislature to remedy it, but lawmakers did not take remedial action this summer.
This ruling is problematic in so many ways. At its core, it will be nearly impossible to enforce; mixed-breed dogs and pit bull mixes are excluded from the law. But “pit bull” is a generic name attached to an entire class of dogs, not one specific breed–leaving the door open for confusion and overzealous action by insurers and property owners who want to comply with the law. To preserve their families, some Maryland renters are looking to move out of state, instead of surrendering their beloved dogs. Families without the resources to move are facing the heartbreaking possibility of giving up their pets, and Maryland shelters are already seeing an uptick in dog surrenders.
While we prepare for the next legislative opportunity in January, we are proactively distributing information to Maryland residents. Today, we announced the launch of the Protect Maryland Dogs project, aimed at reaching out to dog owners, landlords, and other stakeholders in the recent court ruling with a variety of resources. The Protect Maryland Dogs helpline, 1-855-MDDOGS1 (1-855-633-6471) offers recorded information about the ruling, renters’ rights, and landlord resources. We’ve also created a website dedicated to Protect Maryland Dogs at humanesociety.org/protectmddogs, and a Facebook graphic you can share to help get the word out.
Please share this information with Maryland dog owners or property owners. For non-Marylanders, this action is a wake-up call, and we hope you’ll be alert to similarly ill-considered ideas.
You can also sign our pledge to stand with Maryland families and let the state legislature know they have made a decision that is bad for dog owners, bad for businesses, and bad for Maryland. In the meantime, we'll keep on working to help keep pets and their families together.