There may not have been any pit bulls on hand, but there was plenty of love for the controversial dog breed at a rally Tuesday outside the State House.
Lawmakers, animal-rights advocates and general dog lovers turned out to protest a recent state Court of Appeals ruling declaring that the breed is inherently dangerous and to encourage the General Assembly to pass a law protecting the dogs.
“I’m just here to defend my dog,” said Emmanuel Z. Karabetis, of Middle River, adding that it was unfair to single out one breed. “Any dog can bite a human being.”
The court’s ruling established that landlords who know a pit bull is living on their property can be held liable even if they don’t have knowledge that the specific dog is dangerous.
“[The ruling] is creating liability concerns where landlords are letting their tenants who own pits know that they have a choice to either vacate the home or get rid of the dog,” said Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park. “So people have to make these really horrible decisions, and we’re seeing lots and lots of pits being dumped at shelters.”
Because the ruling has made people reluctant to adopt the animals, the shelters end up having to kill the animals, Mizeur said.
While there was a clear need for the irresponsible owners who don’t train their dogs properly to be held liable if there’s an attack, the court’s ruling was far too broad, she said.
Mizeur and Del. Michael Smigiel (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton introduced a bill Monday protecting pit bulls by declaring that dogs may not be presumed dangerous based only on their breed. Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 26) of Elkton sponsored a similar bill in the Senate, but neither is likely to move forward during the special session of the legislature, which is expected to end Wednesday.
“This session was called about [one] issue, the budget,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach said Tuesday.
Miller told senators that if they hear from constituents on the issue, they should tell them to contact the governor and ask that it be considered in a second special session this summer, if one is called.
“It’s an issue that’s a hot-button issue,” Miller said, noting that all members of the chamber had been contacted.
Mizeur said that was “a good Plan B” but worried that many citizens would be forced to move or give up their dogs before lawmakers could address the issue.
Dozens of supporters gathered Tuesday afternoon, many bearing signs that sought to reject the image of pit bulls as aggressive, vicious animals.
“Keep your bad laws off our good dogs,” read one sign. “Pit bulls don’t kill people, people kill people,” read another.
“This isn’t fair,” said Diana Winters, of Arbutus. “It doesn’t address the real issue of the bad dogs.”
Staff writer Danielle Gaines contributed to this report.