Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 1, 2012

Shelter officials assess ruling on ‘dangerous’ dogs

— CUMBERLAND — Last week’s Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that all pit bulls are to be considered dangerous has caused great concern among animal shelter operators who are now forced to re-evaluate their adoption policies concerning the breed. There is also concern that owners of pit bulls will relinquish their pets.

Dick DeVore, chief of the division of Allegany County Emergency Services that includes operator and oversight of the county’s animal selter, said Tuesday the county “is still exploring the actual implications.”

DeVore acknowledged that some pit bulls pass through the animal shelter as well as mixed breeds that could include the pit bull breed.

“We’ve asked the county attorney for some direction. But it’s too soon now to know what the true impact will be,” said DeVore, who said he has suffered five dog bites over the years, including from his own pets. None of the dogs that bit the county official were pit bull. Three of the bites came from chihuahuas.

DeVore also spoke of the need for “responsible ownership” on the part of pet owners. “There have been extreme examples in the media about pit bulls, but it all boils down to responsible ownership. Pet owners are responsible to the animal and responsible to the community,” he said.

The court ruling for Tracey v. Solesky deemed pit bulls as inherently dangerous animals, regardless of the dog, its owner or any training.

“It is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous,” the court ruled Thursday.

Karl Brubaker, director of the Allegany County Animal Shelter, shared DeVore’s concerns as both await direction from the county attorney in response to the court ruling on pit bulls.

“We’re in a holding pattern and waiting for the county to give us some direction. We’re trying to figure out the ramifications and liability. We’re just trying to figure out the best way forward,” said Brubaker.

Monday, two pit bulls were dropped off at the shelter by a woman who said her landlord would no longer allow pit bulls on her rental property. “We don’t know if that is a result of this court ruling or not. They are very nice dogs and are adoption ready,” said Brubaker.

Concerning the court ruling, Brubaker said, “This ruling is very far-reaching and makes no distinction between private owners of pits and pit mixes and other groups that have legal ownership of these until they are adopted out.”

Brubaker said he had read the court ruling and that is was rendered by a 4-3 split decision by the court. He also said it “can be very problematic” to attempt to identify a breed by visual examination.

Brubaker said genetic testing must typically be done to determine breed and sometimes some percentage of breed of a mix cannot be determined. He said the court ruling gave no indication as to the percentage level of pit bull breed would be necessary for a mixed breed to fall within the parameters of the court ruling.

“We’re watching and paying attention and ready to move,” said Brubaker, “once we find out what we should legally do.”

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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