A couple of months ago, Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, had signed HB 73/SB 247, which undoes the 2012 ruling that pit bulls and pit bull mixes were “inherently dangerous.”
As you could imagine, this is a huge victory for dog owners, many of which were faced with choosing their home over their beloved family pet. There was always room for an owner—of any breed—to be sued if their dog had attacked and bitten a person, but the 2012 ruling had targeted pit bulls owners specifically, and stated that the owner’s landlord could also be sued.
In an effort to protect themselves, many property owners announced to their current and future tenants that pit bulls were no longer welcomed on their property. So, many families had to either say goodbye to their pets and surrender them to shelters, or find another place to live.
While I’ve never been in a situation where it was either me or my pet, I still couldn’t imagine giving up my pet in order to secure a place to live—I’d find a new place, no matter how long it took. Now before you throw tomatoes at me, I do understand that some of the people in that situation didn’t have a choice, for one reason or another and I don’t judge them.
However, I do judge those people who single out pit bulls as dangerous, vicious dogs when any dog—or animal with teeth—can bite you. I’ve seen many stories in the media about how a child was chased and bitten by a pit bull, and how their parent had joined the fight against pit bulls. But I ask myself, would those same parents raise the pitchforks if the dog had been a Pomeranian, or a Labrador, or a Chihuahua? Would those same news cameras care if the dog were a Springer Spaniel or a Yorkshire terrier?
Most people wouldn’t because they don’t see them as threats. But speaking as a veterinary assistant for close to 10 years, I’ve been bitten by all of those breeds previously mentioned. My most recent injury was by a Cocker Spaniel. Strange huh? Most think of them as friendly, like Lady from Lady and the Tramp. But let me tell you, it wasn’t a Disney movie. I had a nice mild concussion because of that dog.
And during my career, I’ve never been attacked by a pit bull. Now, I understand why pit bulls get that bad reputation. They look very scary, sometimes their ears are cropped (which will be another post for another day) and in different media formats like films and television, they’re the “to-go” breed to use when filming a dogfight scene (anyone remember that episode of True Blood?). Whenever the police break up a dog-fighting ring, almost all of the dogs rescued are pit bulls.
But the truth is that it’s all in their owner. Far too often, the wrong people own pets, not just pit bulls. They don’t know how to train them, how to speak to them and they don’t know how to deal with situations that call for professional help. But the same could be said about every other breed of dog—and cat. The basis mechanics of how a dog treats the outside world stems on how their owners treat them.
I’m very happy that this new bill takes the burden off the landlord themselves and the laser eye off the pit bulls owners as a whole. It goes back to the original point—no matter what breed your dog is, if it attacks a person, you—the owner—are liable. And that’s where it should be.
For your reading pleasure, please check out the links below. And if you have some pictures of your pit bull, or other family pet, I invite you to comment and share them with me!