Saturday, February 2, 2013

Rebuttable Presumption

A presumption of fact which can be defeated by persuasive evidence to the contrary.
Duhaime Legal Dictionary

. . . a rebuttable presumption (in Latin, praesumptio iuris tantum) is an assumption . . . that is taken to be true unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise.

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Revised: Mar 01, 2013; 20:01 GMT

The Maryland task force on pit bulls has presented legislation which would, if accepted by the General Legislature, abrogate the April 26, 2012 finding of the Maryland Court of Appeals. Senate Bill 160 establishes the rationale for abrogating the Court's ruling in Paragraph A of the proposed legislation:
. . . evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities. [SB 160]
In lay terms, the legislation argues that to claim an owner knew or should have known that a dog is dangerous is a presumption which is easily defeated by persuasive evidence (ie, is rebuttable), and is therefore not a sound basis for Maryland common law. The bill goes on to rescind the April 26, 2012 finding of the Maryland Court of Appeals that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

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In the last thirty years pit bulls have killed 241 humans and disfigured another 1,302 (that we're aware of). Fully half of these casualties, 126 of the fatalities and 640 of the disfigurements, have occurred in the last five years. That amounts to an average of 25 pit bull canine homicides of humans a year, or a death every two weeks.

The number of attacks by pit bulls nearly trebled from 2002 to 2011 and the rate of attacks continues to increase as more pit bulls are adopted into family homes. Nearly a third of all pit bull attacks causing permanent disfigurements during the last three decades have occurred in the last two years. [See below for details.]

There are millions of dog attacks each year, but 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 are family pets which had previously been considered nonviolent.

It is obvious to all but the most obdurate pit bull advocate that pit bulls have compiled a record of attacks unequaled by any other breed or type of dog. No amount of churning the waters about breed discrimination or breed identity will obscure the facts. The Court of Appeals gave ample evidence to support its finding that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, evidence the legislature would ignore. These facts are not a presumption; they are not rebuttable. In spite of this preponderance of evidence, SB 160 precludes the victim of a pit bull attack the use of this evidence, as the bill disallows reference "to breed or heritage." This language was surely written into SB 160 at the insistence of HSUS or other local pit bull advocacy organizations; its presence is otherwise inexplicable in the context of this legislation.

Thomas Jefferson opened the Declaration of Independence with an appeal to the self-evident truths of Moral Law. The people of Maryland now appeal to their legislature to recognize the validity of the Court's finding. To ignore the available data, and the Court's finding, is to willfully ignore a self-evident truth.

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

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