Some relief for pit bull owners, landlords -- Gazette.Net


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Two Maryland lawmakers say an opinion issued by the attorney generalís office this week should give pit bull owners and their landlords temporary relief, which buys the legislature time to pass a new law to address issues raised in a recent Court of Appeals ruling.

At a Wednesday morning news conference, Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park said a motion by State Farm Insurance asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider its April 26 ruling that pit bulls were ďinherently dangerousĒ puts a stay on the impact of the courtís decision on pet owners and their landlords.

Under the courtís decision, landlords could be held liable if a tenantís pit bull or pit bull mixed breed attacked an individual or a pet.

In the opinion by the attorney generalís office, issued Monday in response from a request by Mizeur, Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe said neither the governor nor the legislature could take any action short of passage of legislation to stay the decision by the court. However, the filing of the motion for reconsideration delays the impact of the decision until the court makes a final ruling.

The stateís high court decision in April prompted numerous calls from supporters and owners of pit bulls asking for changes to the state law, said Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R-Dist. 36) of Chesapeake City.

One woman emailed him this week that her landlord had evicted her following the court ruling and that she was living in her car with her dogs because she did not want to give them up.

While the attorney generalís opinion does not ďunring the bellĒ for those who already have been evicted or for the dogs put down by shelters because of the court ruling, it should prevent similar action until either the legislature passes a new law or the court issues a final ruling after reconsideration, Smigiel said.

If the legislative task force reaches a solution, the entire General Assembly should be able to quickly pass a law to remedy the uncertainty and problems caused by the courtís ruling, Mizeur said.

Such a bill could be considered in a special session, but it is unlikely the legislature would convene just on the pit bull issue. However, if expanded gambling is taken up in a special session, the pit bull bill could be introduced and passed in the matter of a day or two, Mizeur said.

cford@gazette.net