Monday, January 28, 2013

The BSL Cliff

The Humane Society of the United States is so grateful that lawmakers have agreed on a reasonable measure to address the unintended consequences of the court’s ruling while still providing a remedy for victims of dog bites.
Tami Santelli, HSUS

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Revised: Jan 29, 2013; 20:39 GMT

We would like to ask Ms Santelli what exactly is the remedy for victims to which she refers? We find no explicit remedy for victims of pit bull attacks in the proposed legislation. In fact proposed SB 160 would rescind protections for Maryland citizens to the status quo ante April 1, 2012.

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The Maryland legislative task force has worked for the better part of a year to craft a bill, and the best they could do is write a bill that abrogates the court ruling. The legislation is presented, by the task force as well as well as by HSUS, as if it were in the interest of the victims of dog bites:
This is a reasonable compromise that will restore some measure of sanity and predictability to the ownership of animals in Maryland and the rights of people who have been injured.
Language in the bill itself, which is presented as emergency legislation, perpetuates this hypocrisy, pretending the legislation is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health or safety.

These are shameful misrepresentations: the proposed legislation would offer no protections whatsoever for those who have been  injured by pit bulls in Maryland, and reverting to the old Maryland common law imposes severe restrictions on the ability of victims to find a remedy for attacks. There are informative discussions of Maryland common law as it refers to dog attacks by pit bulls in both Kenneth Phillips' Dog Bite Law and in John Ensminger's Dog Law Reporter. Both of these important sources make it abundantly clear that it is difficult for victims of pit bull attacks to find a remedy under the Maryland Common Law; in fact, a remedy may be more difficult under Maryland Common Law than it is in any other state.

So why do the HSUS and the task force both insist the proposed legislation will protect victims?

In their determination to protect the interests of real estate owners and managers, insurers, and the vocal minority of dog owners who prefer fighting breeds, the task force has proposed legislation which ignores the victims of those dogs. And they have become perpetrators of the pit bull problem in Maryland.

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This post is one of a series on the Maryland pit bull conundrum. To view the index of all Maryland posts click here.

Maryland legislators reach compromise (Washington Post, Jan 17, 2013)
Legislation would ease pressure (Towson Patch, Jan 24, 2013))
Pit bull legislation (Maryland Reporter, Jan 25, 2013)

Maryland Senate bill SB 160 2013
MD Court of Appeals establishes new liability rule in pit bull attack cases

Special MD pit bull lobbying pages:
Humane Society Urges Corrective Pit Bull Law (HSUS Press Release)
On-line form which encourages spam to legislators (HSUS)
Protect Maryland Dogs (HSUS)
HSUS Urges Legislation to pass bill (HSUS)
Special Projects: Maryland (Animal Farm Foundation)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks