Maryland’s Court Of Appeals Finds Pit Bull DogsAre Inherently Dangerous
When is a Pit Bull Owner Responsible for Their Dog Biting Someone in Maryland?
The Maryland high Court has issued a new decision against pit bulls and pit bull mixes (and their owners) in what appears to be a unique landmark decision. In the case of Tracey v. Solesky, the High Court essentially held that all pit bulls and crossbred pit bills are inherently dangerous (in and of themselves.) and the owners should be held strictly liable for harm their animals cause. In other words, Pit bulls are classified by the law as inherently “dangerous” and owners of these animals are therefore to be held strictly liable for any harm their Pit Bulls cause. This liability is absolute and it even extends to cases where the owner did not know the dog was dangerous.
The upshot of all this goes something like this: Even if the Pit Bull has NEVER PREVIOUSLY exhibited any indications of being dangerous, aggressive or otherwise shown any indication it might cause harm. The holding in Maryland simply requires that:
- 1. The Pit Bull or Pit Bull Mix causes the harm
- 2. The animal’s owner know the dog is a pit bull or a pit bill mix
Where these two conditions are satisfied, the owner is held liable for the harm, damage and/or injuries caused by their animal.
This decision has greatly affected dog liability law in Maryland. The dog bite law in Maryland used to be (generally) that an owner could only be liable for the acts of his domesticated dog, if he knew or should have known the dog had a dangerous propensity. Under the previously law, a dog owner couldn’t be liable for his pit bull dog’s attack if he had no indication it was likely to occur, or if the dog had given the owner any reason to believe such an attach might ever occur. A claimant was forced to prove that the owner knew or should have known of the animal’s dangerous propensities. Now, no such proof is needed. The claimant need only prove that the injuries occurred and the animal’s owner knew the animal was a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix.
There still seems to be some subjective wiggle room for the pit bull owners. For example, a dog owner could claim they were unaware their animal was a pit bull (or mix.) However, this seems like a losing argument. Who doesn’t know what kind of dog they have?
For more information on this landmark decision, you can read the case of Tracy v. Solesky, 2012 WL 1432263 (Md. Ct. App. Apr. 26, 2012).
The humane society also has an interesting article on this subject. Read it here.
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