Solesky Solution on the Horizon?

Maryland General Assembly to announce proposal Thursday.  Dog owners need fair and equal treatment.

 

GREENBELT, MARYLAND, January 15, 2013 – Only a few days into the 2013 Regular Session of the Maryland General Assembly, House Delegate Luiz Simmons has proposed HB78, a bold emergency bill designed to nullify the Maryland Court of Appeals’ April, 2012 ruling that imposed breed-specific strict liability for landlords and other third parties. Delegates Smigiel, Cardin, Bromwell, Kelly, Kramer, and Anderson have joined as co-sponsors. HB 78 is scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary committee on January 30th, 1pm in Annapolis.  The Senate, led by Brian Frosh, is expected to crossfile an identical bill; details to follow.

The Maryland Dog Federation SUPPORTS HB78.  We have also proposed a friendly amendment so all dog owners have the opportunity for fair and equal treatment. 

There are two critical aspects to HB78, subsection A and subsection B.  Subsection B of this bill, as mentioned above, reverts state law for landlords, homeowners and condo associations (i.e., third parties) back to the common law that existed on April 1, 2012 (before the Tracey v Solesky ruling) and prevents using breed specific arguments against them. This is great news for thousands of dog owning tenants across the state; no longer will they be threatened with immediate eviction by a landlord concerned with the dog living in 4A simply because of what it looks like! 

The second aspect of HB78, subsection A, addresses dog owners defending themselves in court.  With HB78‘s passage, the court will now presume an owner knew or should have known her dog is dangerous before it injures someone, and the owner will have to prove she did not know.  The continued used of breed-specific arguments in court against dog owners, which would still be permissible even if the dog never displayed vicious tendencies, creates bias, inaccurate presumptions, and perpetuates the same inaccurate legal arguments on which Tracey v Solesky was founded. 

The Maryland Dog Federation suggests a simple, fair and friendly amendment (underlined text) to the end of subsection A of HB78:

 

(A) IN AN ACTION AGAINST AN OWNER OF A DOG FOR DAMAGES FOR PERSONAL INJURY OR DEATH CAUSED BY THE DOG, EVIDENCE THAT THE DOG CAUSED THE PERSONAL INJURY OR DEATH CREATES A REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION THAT THE OWNER KNEW OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT THE DOG HAD VICIOUS OR DANGEROUS PROPENSITIES, WITHOUT REGARD TO THE BREED OR HERITAGE OF THE DOG.

 

It is critical for dog owning tenants of Maryland that HB78 passes because it is breed-neutral for landlords.  Amend it as noted above so that it is breed-neutral for everyone.

Four dog law proposals go to Maryland Committees to start Special Session

Things are moving very quickly.  Below you will find links to the four bills (3 House bills, 1 Senate bill crossfiled).  Maryland Dog Federation’s written testimony follows.

Maryland General Assembly
2012 Special Session #2 Notice


 

Meeting Information: Hearing Schedule      
Proposed Legislation:      
  Civil Actions – Liability for Personal Injury or Death Caused by Dog Senate lr3512 House lr3539
  Civil Action – Liability for Damages Caused by Dog House lr3527  
  Civil Action – Liability for Damages Caused by Dog Bite House lr3535  

 

 

Good day Chairmen Vallario and Frosh, Vice Chairwomen Dumais and Gladden, distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the Judiciary and Judicial Proceedings Committees.

I am Adrianne Lefkowitz, president of the Maryland Dog Federation. I am very glad to have the opportunity to provide our written testimony on a variety of emergency bills to correct the Maryland Court of Special Appeals’ misguided finding that some loved and loving family pet dogs are “inherently dangerous” by virtue of only their physical appearance; and that landlords and others are responsible for actions despite having no direct control of a dog. We are especially grateful that time has been made for us in this August Special Session which will hopefully help thousands of Maryland households keep their families intact and in their homes. Thank you!

We would like to take this opportunity to comment on the four different emergency bills we have had the opportunity to review.

1.  Emergency Bill 3lr3535by Delegate Benjamin Kramer:

SUPPORT as written

This bill turns back the clock and reverts the law back to the way it was on January 1, 2012, before the Court ruling. This emergency measure sunsets on September 30, 2013, but gets us to the General Assembly’s 2013 regular session. While this still leaves us with an element of doubt and concern because we would not have a permanent solution, it will also give us time to work with legislators to write more comprehensive, well conceived legislation that is appropriate for our state.

2. Emergency Bill 3lr352,by Delegate Benjamin Kramer:

SUPPORT with amendments

This bill will change Maryland common law, creating “strict liability” for all dogs and includes definitions. If this bill is considered, we would like to offer the following amendments:

Beginning at pg 3, line 11, change 3-1902 (B) (3) and add (4) as follows: 

(3) As a result of committing or attempting to commit a criminal trespass or other criminal offense UPON THE OWNER OF THE DOG OR UPon the real property of the owner of the dog, OR WAS PROTECTING ITSELF, ITS OWNER, CUSTODIAN, OR A MEMBER OF THE HOUSEHOLD, ITS KENNELS OR ITS OFFSPRING; OR

(4) AS A RESULT OF THREATENING, TEASING, TORMENTING, ABUSING THE DOG OR ITS OFFSPRING, OR THE DOG WAS RESPONDING TO PAIN OR INJURY.

3. 4. Emergency Bill 3lr3512 cross filed with 3lr3539, by Senators Frosh, Raskin, Gladden, Delegate Anderson:

SUPPORT with amendments

This bill will change Maryland common law, creating “strict liability for all dogs and including some definitions. If this bill is considered, we would like to offer the following amendments:

Beginning at pg 2, line 8, change 3-1901 (A) (3) and (B) (2) (II), and add (B) (2) (III) as follows:

(A) (3) “Owner of a dog” does not include a TRAINER, BEHAVIORIST, GROOMER…etc.

(B) (2) (II) Unless the injured or deceased individual was under the age of 7 years, the injured or deceased individual was committing or attempting to commit a criminal trespass or other criminal offense UPON THE OWNER OF THE DOG OR UPon the real property of the owner of the dog, OR WAS PROTECTING ITSELF, ITS OWNER, CUSTODIAN, OR A MEMBER OF THE HOUSEHOLD, ITS KENNELS OR ITS OFFSPRING;

(III) UNLESS THE INJURED OR DECEASED INDIVIDUAL WAS UNDER THE AGE OF 7 YEARS, THE INJURED OR DECEASED INDIVIDUAL WAS THREATENING, TEASING, TORMENTING, ABUSING THE DOG OR ITS OFFSPRING, OR THE DOG WAS RESPONDING TO PAIN OR INJURY, OR;

(IV) …

Hershey gets TWO lucky breaks: Getting out of the bag AND out of the county!

Imagehttp://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Pit-Bull-Puppy-Left-for-Dead-in-Garbage-Bag-163634886.html   

News stories like “Hershey”, the puppy identified as a “pit bull” are heartbreaking.  A happy-go-lucky pup put in a trash bag and tossed from a moving car, landing on the side of the road in Upper Marlboro (Prince George’s County).   The cruelty and abusiveness of the offense is not lost on millions of pet lovers across the country — it demonstrates a terrible lack of compassion and empathy, and callous disregard for an innocent living creature.  That is something we cannot and must not tolerate in Prince George’s County, even County Executive Rushern Baker II has railed against animal abuse.  But we can’t forget that this good puppy CANNOT be adopted into a loving Prince George’s County family because the county would then immediately seize and kill him.  You see, Prince George’s County has a ridiculous breed ban that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to enforce and has not provided one whit of additional public safety! The county inflicts nearly the same lack of compassion, empathy and callous disregard for life as the dirtbag who tossed Hershey out like trash.   Prince George’s County has ripped thousands and thousands of innocent pets just like Hershey away from their families, the vast majority of them were never a problem, or a nuisance, or a danger to the community; yet they are summarily torn from their families, spend many hours frightened, confused, and alone in a noisy cement-walled impound cage, then killed by the county simply for looking a certain way.   Please help us stop that madness too!

Even the Director of Prince George’s Animal Management Division, who is charged with enforcing the county breed ban, finds the law difficult and challenging.  The following is the transcript of his June 19, 2012 testimony before the Maryland General Assembly’s Breed Specific Task Force:

  1. a.       Chief Rodney Taylor:  One of the most difficult challenges we [Prince George’s County Animal Management Division] have as an organization is going to someone’s house, knocking on their door, and seeing their American Pit Bull Terrier sitting in their living room watching television with the family, and have to take it out. Where the dog has done nothing wrong, no problems, but is just because its breed, he has to be removed. What a challenge. (transcribed by StopBSL.com)

Desperate Pleas, unanswered

Aside

A few days ago, we wrote about a family threatened with eviction if they did not “get rid of” their momma dog with a litter two week old puppies.  I wondered how heartless one could be to force someone to give up helpless little tiny babies with their eyes and ears just barely open.

Today, I got my answer, or can it get worse?  I’m not sure if these two reports are about the same litter, but if not, then this is now a story about TWO displaced families.  This is not really about “only dogs”, either, this is about PEOPLE being evicted or threatened with eviction simply because of the particular type of dog they own; dogs that were perfectly fine eight weeks ago that are suddenly doggie non grata despite doing nothing wrong.  If there are any legislators who don’t think we need a special session to stop this madness, I hope this clears up any confusion.  The legislative fix is our quickest solution.  Please help us. 

If you haven’t called Governor O’Malley to ask him to please call that Special Session, please call or email him NOW.  It will only take a few minutes…1.800.811.8336

Pit bull mom, 10 puppies evicted

 http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/region/anne_arundel_county_/pit-bull-mom-puppies-surrendered
 
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Posted: 9:02 PM
Last Updated: 16 hours and 22 minutes ago

MILLERSVILLE, Md. (WMAR) – A mother pit bull and her 10 puppies have been surrendered to the SPCA following an eviction.

On Thursday, June 28, the SPCA of Anne Arundel County brought in a 4-year-old pit bull, Chick and her 10, 2-week-old put mix puppies.

After receiving a phone call from Animal Control, asking if the SPCA would be willing to take the dogs, the owner brought them to the shelter. The owner was being evicted for having the put bulls and pit mix puppies.

The owner was allowed to keep his 1-year-old Rottweiler.

The mom and puppies went to a foster home on Saturday where they will be cared for until they are 6 weeks old, old enough for adoption. Chick was completely malnourished but was tentative to her pups when she arrived at the SPCA.

For more information on adopting Chick or one of her puppies, please contact the SPCA of Anne Arundel County at 410-268-4388.

Read more: http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/region/anne_arundel_county_/pit-bull-mom-puppies-surrendered#ixzz1zaDe1yas

Note from MDF:  While this may be a good thing for the puppies to have the resources of a foster family and shelter in getting them adopted, the numbers of dogs being forced into shelters will soon exceed available space and resources and many innocent dogs and puppies will be getting killed for not enough space.  Also, nursing female dogs often look drawn and gaunt and it is not always because they are “malnourished”, so I would not hold that against the owners unless more information is available (also, I’m sure she was “attentive” to her pups, not “tentative”, as the article mentioned).  And last but not least, please, PLEASE, keep those puppies together until EIGHT weeks old.  I am hoping the article mentioning the puppies’ availability at SIX weeks is an error.  Puppies should be EIGHT weeks old before putting them up for adoption.  Adopting them out earlier is not only against the law, it would cause the puppies to lose valuable interaction time with littermates that helps them learn about bite inhibition, “dog language”, and how to “get along” with other dogs.

Del. Cardin, task force to make it right?

 The legislature is the appropriate body to study the issue carefully and strike the appropriate balance between public safety and fairness. We must get this right.

Delegate Jon Cardin’s OpEd piece on the Dog Law Task Force:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-pit-bulls-20120702,0,1338385.story

The Desperate Pleas

“This entire family is being evicted this weekend.  If rescue is not found they will go go AA Co. AC in Millersville, Md. where they will be euthanized.  There are ten two week old puppies and their parents.  Parents must be saved with babies.  Mom and dad are young, both red/red noses.  If you can help please call Kim at 443.871.6181 as soon as possible.  We have no time.  Vetting is paid for. “

The Human Toll Rises…

Make no mistake:  People ARE being issued eviction orders if they do not surrender their pets.  In many cases, these are dogs who have been good dogs and good neighbors for 5, 7, even 10 years.  Entire families are being thrown into turmoil despite doing no harm, no damage and causing no trouble. 
 
Engage your Maryland lawmakers, continue to ask them to provide legislative relief to the thousands of responsible dog owners who are being forced to give up their dogs or be evicted… 
 
This is a good interaction between legislator and constituent who wrote to Delegate Cathy Vitale that her landlord will likely evict her because she will not surrender her family member:
 
“We are looking at the case to gain a clear understanding of the ramifications of the decision. Once we have a better handle on what it means and how enforceable it is, we can determine if and how the law could be applied. I will withhold my opinion until that information is available for my consideration. I do hope there is an equitable resolution. I certainly don’t want you and Baylee on the streets but as a legislator I am pledged to protect all citizens with equal effort and I also have constituents contacting me that have had terrible experiences with pit bulls. We have to be sure that what ever we make as law addresses both sides with care and responsibility.”
Her constituent’s response:  We ALL want to be safe, that isn’t something that we disagree upon. However, innocent families, business owners (landlords/rental companies) should not be punished for the actions of a few reckless MD residents. Many alternatives have been suggested to and discussed by the task force. But delaying the discussion of this issue until next year because it is not considered “priority” is doing irreparable damage to a large number of Maryland residents and businesses.

And the delegate responded:  I agree with all your observations. Safety is not breed specific nor is the love and importance of a pet. We will try to find the correct balance and I appreciate your input. Whether this comes before the Legislature in a Special Session or regular Session, you may want to follow the hearings on the Maryland General Assembly website. You can check on a bill status and find out about hearing dates. All hearings are open to the public and you can testify if you arrive early enough to sign up to speak.  Thank you for taking the time to communicate with me. It is important for me to hear from constituents as I consider my votes. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

*************************Meanwhile**************************

“BARCS volunteers have also encountered people who were very upset about turning in animals. In early June, one such volunteer talked to a couple who had been standing in the parking lot at BARCS for about 2 hours because they couldn’t bring themselves to turn in their dog. They dog was 12 years old and they had had the dog since it was 6 weeks old. The landlord had told them to get rid of the dog or move because of the court ruling. They eventually went into BARCS, but came back out with the dog. We don’t know the names of this couple, or what happened eventually.
 
Another dog walker recently encountered a woman outside BARCS, hugging her dog and crying – similar circumstances.”
 
…AND…
 

“When I was at the rally when we all first gathered in Annapolis I knew I was asking for an appeal for this law because of my personal dog Moses as well as all of his brother and sister Pit’s and Pit mixes.I knew that my Landlord would pressure me to get rid of him and well last Saturday it happened Moses has to be gone by this Saturday. I am not only heart broken as he is like a child to me but I am losing my training assistant. last night a first time client came to my home for an evaluation of her dog I brought Moses out to interact with her dog at first she and her husband froze when he came around the corner but with in 5 minutes Moses had not just won her over he had made her want to write emails too. I am unwilling to find my furry son a home in a state that I have lived in my whole life as I am not sure of his future here.I also know that finding the perfect home for him out of state with a two week time limit has been harder.If not for my last son at home I would pack up and leave this state sadly it has come to this for me. I am tired of the square dance there is enough letters and people being hurt by this law the choices we are being forced to make are unfair and unjust not just to our dogs but to our families.How many of you are willing to place your dogs back into uncertainty that most of us have retrieved our dogs out of? I am not therefore an even tougher choice might have to be made and the blood will be on the people who are sqaure dancing with an issue that has been proved time and time again in other states not to resolve anything. The media well shame on them as they are prepetuating the issue by making every dog attack about a Pit Bull !!! I am open to suggestions and so very broken hearted over the thought of my boy leaving me!!”