Maryland: Talks breaking down in General Assembly on deal to reverse Court of Appeals ruling

A compromise over legislation to reverse the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that declared pit bulls inherently dangerous is unraveling.  A conflict between two legislators is turning what had appeared to be a settled issue into a fight, and is threatening the ability of the bill to move forward.

At issue is an amendment adopted by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill would reverse the Court of Appeals decision declaring pit bulls as inhrently dangerous, and applying a different standard to pit bulls than is applied to other dogs. Both would adopt a “breed-neutral” approach to liability that modifies the standard that prevailed before the court decision. That standards known as the “one-bite” rule, exempted a dog owner from liability for an attack if he or she did not have reason to believe the pet was dangerous.

The initial House-Senate deal,  would have given the victims of bites from all dog breeds a better chance of prevailing in a civil suit than they enjoyed before the Court of Appeals decision last year.  Simmons believes that an amendment added to the bill Thursday in the Senate committee would expose hundreds of thousands of owners of other breeds of dog to substantially the same strict liability standard as the court applied to pit bulls.  Simmons believes the amendment altered the agreement he and Frosh made earlier this year on the bill.

Frosh claims Simmons is making a mistake, and he is going to kill the bill as a result, while Simmons holds Frosh responsible for the failure of the compromise.

Tami Santelli, Maryland director of the Humane Society of the United States, said she hopes the two sides can mend their difference because people are already being forced to choose between their dogs and their homes as landlords adopt exclusionary policies on pit bulls.  She added that a lot  of people in Maryland will be in a really tough spot if they can’t work it out.

MARYLAND RESIDENTS:  Your voice is extremely important right now in helping to bring this bill to the finish line.  Reach out to your legislators and ask them to work out their differences on the bill and support the compromise bill.  Legislators and organizations have worked so hard, and this bill has come too far, and many families and good pets will be left to pick up the pieces if this bill is not passed.  Please act NOW!

You can find your legislators here. If you’re not sure who represents you, there is “Who represents me” link in the upper right hand corner of the page.

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