Back in October, we published an article titled “Breed Specific Legislation Punishes the Innocent, Not the Guilty” where we explained why Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is not an effective means for regulating dogs’ behavior in communities. Despite the mounting evidence that BSL is misguided, and the vocal disapproval from animal rights groups and veterinarians, some state and local governments continue to pass breed-discriminating laws.
The most recent state to pass such a law is Maryland. A few weeks ago the state’s highest court ruled that Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes are inherently dangerous. They held that, “When an attack involves Pit Bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular Pit Bull or Pit Bulls are dangerous.”
Typically, a dog is allowed “one free bite” before its guardian can be held liable for their pet’s aggressiveness. The theory behind this is that nobody can know if a dog is aggressive until it has acted out. Once a person has the knowledge that their pet is a potential danger to others—so, after that first bite—his legal responsibilities change.
What Maryland’s BSL does, unfortunately, is it abolishes the “one free bite” rule for Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes in the state. Those breeds are to be considered inherently dangerous, regardless of each dog’s individual temperament or history of aggression (or lack thereof). Maryland Pit Bull parents now face legal liabilities disproportionate to parents of other dog breeds.
Naturally, many animal rescue groups in Maryland are worried about the effect this new BSL will have on Pit Bulls in the state. The law holds that landlords with Pit Bulls on their property are also to be held liable if the dog bites. Pit Bull parents, facing eviction from their landlords because of the BSL, have been calling shelters in efforts to get rid of their dogs. Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes already living in shelters face a slim chance of finding new homes.