There is no shortage of options when it comes to placing blame for the current state of affairs facing pit bulls in Maryland. In fact, finger pointing has been fast and furious since that fateful day in 2012 when the Maryland Court of Appeals released its controversial opinion in Tracey vs. Solesky that deemed “all pit bulls to be inherently dangerous” and held that landlords were also financially liable.
The outcry was immediate and so was the parade of pitties lined up and surrendered to area shelters. Many people looked to the Maryland General Assembly to correct the wrong and placed their hope in the hands of 188 state delegates and senators. That optimism proved to be misguided. The session ended in April of 2013 with the Court’s ruling still firmly in place and the House of Representatives backslapping each other to the tune of “Who Let The Dogs Out” blaring over the loud speaker. In the weeks and months that followed, the finger pointing reached new heights. Delegates blamed Senators. Senators blamed Delegates. And everyone, on both sides of the aisle, pointed to the insurance lobby and lawyers as the guilty culprits.
It became so confusing that we started to keep a running tally – a document that includes the explanations that many Maryland constituents received from their various representatives. Some were very pointed – “My understanding is that Senate President Mike Miller changed wording in the bill’s conference committee version making it into a litigation lawyer’s dream instead of what we all worked on.” Others were curt and unapologetic – “The Senate passed a good bill that gave extra protection to children. The House would not agree.” And then there were the responses that skirted the issue by merely stating the obvious – “At this time, the landlords are still responsible if a tenant’s pit bull injures someone. Legislation is still needed to address the Solesky ruling.”
Unfortunately, none of the explanations or responses change anything for dogs like Sasha and Bear, two elder bulls who found themselves at BARCS last week through no fault of their own. After having been gentle, loving and treasured family members for over 14 years – their family was forced to choose between them or a roof over their heads. Sasha and Bear’s situation gained national attention and a rescue came forward, but there have been hundreds of other pups that haven’t been so lucky. Already the whispers have started about specific legislators who are determined to keep the landlord liability in place, but expand it to include all breeds. Time will tell. The new legislative session is in January – for most of us, that’s right around the corner. Unless, of course, you walk on four legs and look like a pit bull – in that case, it’s a lifetime. Literally.