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.

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