Cumberland Times-News

February 3, 2013

Not everybody biting on proposed pit bull legislation

Kayla Faria
Capital News Service

— ANNAPOLIS — A bill meant to ease liability for pit bull dog owners and landlords was criticized by victims’ families, dog advocates, attorneys and legislators recently at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The committee heard testimony on legislation that would override a decision by the state’s highest court that imposed “strict liability standards” on owners of “pure bred pit bulls” and landlords who rent to these dog owners.

Sponsored by Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, the legislation mandates that evidence of a dog causing injury creates a “rebuttable presumption” that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had dangerous tendencies. While it reinstates common law that has been popularly referred to as the “one-bite” rule, Simmons rejected this characterization.

“Maryland has never been a one free dog bite state,” Simmons said.

Delegate Michael McDermott, R-Worcester, and others, said the burden of proof would fall to victims, as dog owners would always claim ignorance of the dog’s dangerous tendencies.