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Maryland amends law that says pit bulls are inherently dangerous

Last February the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously approved a bill that overturned a 2012 Maryland Court of Appeals decision in which pit bulls were defined as "inherently dangerous." While the measure approved by the House removes the differentiation, it makes it easier to hold all dog owners liable for injuries caused by their pets. That liability is regardless of the dog's breed.

In a tragic twist of fate, a Maryland woman was attacked and seriously injured by at least one of her two pit bulls a day after the state amended the law. One of the pit bulls was found a few blocks away and was so aggressive that Baltimore County Police officers were forced to shoot and kill it.

Until the bill's passage, plaintiffs suing the owners of dogs after being attacked had to prove the dog was dangerous. Under the bill the burden of proof shifts to the owners of dogs to prove that their dog is not dangerous. In general, when an individual is injured on another's property, depending on the status of the person--whether the person was invited on the property, there with the consent of the owner or trespassing--the property owner or occupier could be found legally responsible for the person's injury under premises liability. An owner has the legal responsibility to take steps to warn or fix dangerous premises.

The original Appeals decision was in response to a case where a 10-year-old Maryland child was viciously attacked by a neighbor's pit bull. Many local governments decided, as a result of the child's suffering, to alter their laws governing pit bulls. The decision had made pit bull owners and their landlords automatically liable if their dog bit or injured someone.

Source: Opposing Views, "Pit Bull Attacks Md. Woman 1 Day After State Overturns Court Decision that Breed is 'Inherently Dangerous,'" Denise A Justin, Feb. 24, 2013

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