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Md. court's ruling that pit bulls are 'dangerous' on hold

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Photo - A Maryland court ruling that pit bulls are "inherently dangerous" is on hold pending further review. (Getty Images)
A Maryland court ruling that pit bulls are "inherently dangerous" is on hold pending further review. (Getty Images)
Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

A Maryland court ruling that says pit bulls are "inherently dangerous" will not go into effect until the decision is reviewed, according to an assistant attorney general for the state.

The advisory letter from the Attorney General's Office could allow pit bull owners to keep their pets without fear of being booted from their homes by landlords and property owners who are wary of the responsibility they must take for attacks by the dogs.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in April that property owners and landlords are liable for attacks by pit bulls because, the court concluded, "pit bulls and crossbred pit bulls are inherently dangerous."

Under the decision, dog owners could be held responsible for attacks by their pit bulls.

Landlords would have to buy separate insurance policies to cover any damages that may be caused during a pit bull attack, according to Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery.

A motion by State Farm Insurance asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision means the ruling is on hold, for now, according to Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe.

"If [families] are fearing they have to give up their pet, if they're getting eviction notices, they can step back, take a deep breath and know that at least until the court rules on the motion for reconsideration, the decision is not in effect," Mizeur said.

Mizeur and Del. Mike Smigiel, R-Caroline, said they hope the attorney general's advisory gives lawmakers enough time to craft legislation that would enforce liability for dog owners but wouldn't discriminate by breed.

Lawmakers could consider a bill during a second special session this summer -- Gov. Martin O'Malley is considering calling lawmakers back to Annapolis by mid-August to discuss an expansion of gambling.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George's, said Wednesday that the pit bull issue alone is not enough to bring lawmakers back to the capital.

If no special session is called, Mizeur and Smigiel vowed to introduce legislation during the 2013 General Assembly.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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