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Pit bull legislation expected for Maryland special session

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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

Maryland lawmakers are expected to consider a bill in this week's special session intended to address a court ruling that pit bulls are "inherently dangerous."

Del. Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore, said a consensus has been reached on legislation that would specify a dog owner is strictly liable for damages in instances of a bite or attack by any kind of dog, not just pit bulls.

The measure is expected to relieve the burden on second or third parties, such as landlords and property owners, who can be held liable for damages if it can be proven they were aware a dangerous animal was living on their property.

The Maryland Court of Appeals set the liability standards in an April ruling, in which they also concluded that, "pit bulls and crossbred pit bulls are an inherently dangerous."

Pit bull owners and animal rights activists were outraged by the ruling, which they argued was an unfair discrimination against a breed.

Some dog owners reported landlords demanding they give up their pit bulls or leave their homes, as property owners grew wary of the prospect of being sued for a pit bull attack, according to Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Caroline and Cecil.

A motion by State Farm Insurance asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision put the ruling on hold for now, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Anderson said he plans to introduce the bill in the House of Delegates. Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, would introduce an accompanying bill in the opposite chamber, Anderson said.

"We can't do this all comprehensively in the special session, but we can settle the liability issue," Anderson said.

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, confirmed that pit bull legislation would be introduced in the special session.

It may be one of the few bills to receive the attention of lawmakers beyond a gambling bill from Gov. Martin O'Malley's office. While some delegates have promised to introduce legislation during the session, O'Malley has made it clear the special session must focus solely on gambling, and leaders in the House and Senate are leaving little wiggle room for other bills to creep up and receive serious consideration.

The governor is expected to introduce a bill authorizing a Prince George's County casino and table games such as blackjack and roulette during the session, scheduled to begin Thursday.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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