Monday, October 29, 2012

Who bears the loss?

Who bears the loss? In that situation, nobody's negligent.
Sen. Brian Frosh

* * * * *
Revised: Oct 29, 2012; 14:16 GMT
Revised: Jan 29, 2013; 22:20 GMT
To: MD Task Force on Pit Bulls
Re: Comments of Oct 26, 2012

Who bears the loss? The answer is simple, but we'll return to that in a moment.

The Maryland task force on pit bulls has been charged by the Attorney General to consider the April decision of the Court of Appeals in Tracey v. Solesky.
Further, the Task Force will study the viability and definition of breed-specific standards in Maryland law and local prohibitions, as well as any issues concerning property insurance arising from the Court decision. Finally, the Task Force will make recommendations for potential legislation.
MD State Archives
Senator Frosh explains that the mission of the task force is complicated by the consideration of attacks by dogs previously thought to be nonviolent, in which there is no apparent negligence.
The task force is particularly struggling over the liability in a scenario where a previously nonviolent dog bites without being intentionally provoked. "Who bears the loss?" Frosh said. "In that situation, nobody's negligent."
So far in the calender year 2012 there have been 29 canine homicides; 24 of them by pit bulls and close mixes. There have been 147 reported maulings, 125 of them by pit bulls.* A death or a mauling by a pit bull every other day, and we don't know how many go unreported. Of those few canine homicides and maulings that were committed by dogs other than pit bulls, it's a safe bet that the attacking dogs had previously shown aggression.

It is practically unheard of for a previously nonviolent dog to initiate an unprovoked attack causing grievous bodily harm, unless it is a pit bull or pit bull cross. On the other hand, the majority of unprovoked attacks resulting in death or grave injury are initiated by pit bulls and pit bull crosses, many of which had been previously considered nonviolent.

The struggles of the task force would come to an abrupt end if they simply took a closer look at the Court's finding that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. It appears the task force has determined that the Court's finding lacks credibility, but the record speaks.

Who bears the loss after a pit bull attack? There have been a few sensational settlements, some of which hold municipal or county governments liable for six- or seven-figure sums. But after most pit bull attacks the victims are left to bear not only the extraordinary emotional burdens but the financial burdens as well.  Those who should bear the cost, those who own or harbor fighting breeds, are rarely held accountable.

To resolve the issue the task force must travel full circle and acknowledge that the Court's finding was correct. If the finding stands, insurance companies and landowners will quickly adapt, as they always have,  and pet owners will make wiser choices. If people do the right thing the cost of pit bull attacks will diminish over time -- a relatively short period of time.

Across the country, again and again, legislatures have confronted the same issues the Maryland task force now faces, only to be confused and intimidated by the barrage from the highly-paid career advocates of fighting breeds: lobbyists, attorneys, and legislative analysts working for radical advocates of fighting breeds. This seems to be a problem legislatures are unsuited for, and unable to resolve. And thus pit bulls will remain a menace to public safety until the courts step in.

The Maryland court has provided enlightened leadership on this intractable problem.  Responsible animal welfare activists from across the country welcomed the Court's findings. Cities across the country are looking to the Maryland task force: the challenge now is whether the Maryland legislature will join the court in this courageous stand.

* * * * *

* Statistics are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here.

Resource: MD Court of Appeals establishes new liability rule in pit bull attack cases

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks