The House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill Thursday to put the onus on dog owners when their pets attack.
The bill stems from a Maryland Court of Appeals decision that dubbed pit bulls “inherently dangerous” and held their owners, and the landlords who rent to them, strictly liable in cases where the pit bull injured or killed someone.
The bill, which is an emergency measure, takes the dangerous label off pit bulls and makes the owners of all dogs responsible for proving that their pet had no prior vicious tendencies, and therefore the owner could not have known the animal would attack.
The bill also ensures that landlords will not be held financially liable unless they knew a dog was dangerous.
Prior to the court case, it was up to the victim to prove that the owner — of any breed of dog — should have known that their dog had vicious tendencies if the victim wanted financial compensation.
The April court case set off a flurry of complaints from pit bull owners, who were afraid they would be kicked out of their rented homes if they didn’t give up their dogs, and landlords, who were afraid it would set a dangerous precedent for dog attacks in rental housing.
The Senate has yet to vote the bill out of committee.