Monday, April 30, 2012

Are Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous?

Are Pit Bulls inherently dangerous?

They are according to the Maryland Court of Appeals
which has voided a long-standing “one free bite” rule in the state regard­ing the rights of dog bite vic­tims to receive com­pen­sa­tion for their injuries.

In a deci­sion, pub­lished April 26TH in Dorothy M. Tracey v. Anthony K. Solesky, the Mary­land Court of Appeals ruled:

We are mod­i­fy­ing the Mary­land com­mon law of lia­bil­ity as it relates to attacks by pit bull and cross-bred pit bull dogs against humans. With the stan­dard we estab­lish today (which is to be applied in this case on remand), when an owner or a land­lord is proven to have knowl­edge of the pres­ence of a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull (as both the owner and land­lord did in this case) or should have had such knowl­edge, a prima facie case is estab­lished. It is not nec­es­sary that the land­lord (or the pit bull’s owner) have actual knowl­edge that the spe­cific pit bull involved is dan­ger­ous. Because of its aggres­sive and vicious nature and its capa­bil­ity to inflict seri­ous and some­times fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inher­ently dangerous.

Under Maryland law Pit Bulls will now come with strict liability, which is to say that under the opinion authored by Judge Dale Catell (42 pages):
Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.

The facts of this case stem from a 2007 pit bull attack in Towson, Maryland that almost killed 10-year-old Dominic Solesky and seriously injured 9-year-old Scotty Mason.

Dominic's parents sued the dog's 27-year-old owner who retrieved the dog but did not tend to the injured boys who were covered in blood, nor did he call emergency 911.

Deaths from dog bites are quite rare (only about 30 a year -- far less than for swimming pools), but serious dog bites are not rare, and the majority of deaths and serious dog bites in this country are committed by Pit Bull-type dogs.

Yes, there is data on this -- look it up.

Does this mean that Pit Bulls should be banned?  The court said No.

Does that mean that Pit Bull ownership should come with strict liability? The court said Yes.

We recognize the problems that exist when breed specific legislation is proposed - which is opposed by pit bull breeders, owners and fanciers. Such opposition has been present for many years. Our opinion in the present case does not ban pit bulls, but puts a greater responsibility for vicious dogs where pit bull advocates have long argued it should be -- with the owners and others who have the power of control over such dogs. Our opinion imposes greater duties by reducing the standards necessary to hold owners and others liable for the attacks of their pit bulls.

Where you stand on the question of Pit Bulls depends, in no small degree, to whether or not you really stand for the dogs.

You see, both questions about banning Pit Bulls and strict liability are framed as if the Pit Bull issue is solely about the rights of dog owners and the rights of dog bite victims.

It's not.

It's also about the nearly one million Pit Bulls
that are killed every year in America's shelters -- over 40 MILLION POUNDS of dead Pit Bulls a year.

These dogs are bred by Pit Bull "lovers" and then sold to other "Pit Bull lovers" who then abandon these dogs to "shelters" where they are put down because no one wants them.

To put a point on it, more Pit Bull dogs are killed every year in America than the total number of dogs registered by the American Kennel Club every year.

This "Pit Bull problem" is not caused by people who hate Pit Bulls.

It is not caused by Dachshund owners or by unsympathetic landlords, or by State Judges, or by frustrated City Council members.

It is not caused by small children who are mauled while playing in city parks.

The Pit Bull problem is caused by Pit Bull owners who will not stop breeding these dogs despite the fact that there are far too many of them in the wrong hands.

The Pit Bull problem is, in short, caused by the toxic combination of over-amped dogs and sub-wattage human beings.

Absent action other than hand wringing by the Pit Bull community -- which has NOT proposed workable solutions on its own -- others have stepped in and will continue to step in with their solutions.

Will those solutions be workable?

One thing is for sure: they will not be less workable.

Denver has simply banned the dog and now has the lowest Pit Bull kill rate in the country.

San Francisco has mandatory spay-neuter and, as a consequence, Pit Bull deaths have plummeted.

Boston has mandatory spay-neuter laws and a muzzle law as well, and, as a consequence, Pit Bull deaths have plummetted

In every single case, legislation proposed and adopted by City Councils and opposed by the Pit Bull community, has resulted in legislation worked to reduce Pit Bull deaths.

Is that a win?

It is if you stand for Pit Bulls

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