2012-The year of activism

I could have titled this post the year of the fear, uncertainty and doubt, but I am trying to throw this into a positive spin. In just a simple 5 months of 2012, I have advocated for equal rights in humans, and now I am advocating for equal rights for canines. When will the battles ever end?

Whether the issue is allowing one person to legally share a life with another person, or whether it is the issue with bully breeds, the one thing that is in common here is FEAR.

The new issue at hand is a rare act of Judicial activism where the Maryland Court of Appeals deemed bully breeds (AKA Pit bulls and pit bull x) “inherently dangerous”. This situation is different than a legislative act, as you have a slight say in how that process goes by advocating to your delegates and senators to use better judgement and sensibilities before enacting a law that is fiscally, morally, and socially irresponsible. When the judicial system creates a precedent, without a law, it allows the legal system to be overrun with odd lawsuits, people to be pushed into bankruptcy, and more pain and heart ache than anyone ever deserves to be put through.

The case at hand is Tracey vs. Solesky. On April 26, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the defendant Mr. Solesky was held strictly liable for the behavior of his American Bull Terrier who bit (granted a bad bite) a child in 2007. Not only did the court find Mr. Solesky liable, the the court found his 90 year old landlady liable because she was aware that this dog was living on her property. On top of finding Mr. Solesky and his landlord liable, they deemed all “pit bulls and pit bull x dogs inherently dangerous” which puts them in the same category as owning dynamite on your property.

By labeling these breeds as inherently dangerous, landlords, park owners, and business owners may all be held liable if an animal who is found to be pit bull or pit bull x on their property to show an act of aggression.

Maryland is one of 4 states in the US that has the “one bite rule” which gives a dog accused of biting the benefit of a doubt and will not be seized or euthanized with proof of valid rabies vaccinations. With this ruling, any pit or pit x has that benefit of a doubt removed and they are automatically seized, and depending on county legislation, may be euthanized without any investigation.

Fiscally, this can become a nightmare as well. Home Owners Insurance policies can now exclude any “pit bull or pit bull x” dogs from policies or they can drop a home owner all together.

Landlords may add new clauses to leases preventing people with dogs all together or breed specific dogs for not being there. There are reports that eviction notices are being sent out illegally to pit and pit x owners due to the fear of being held liable should something happen. (KNOW YOUR RIGHTS RENTERS! THIS IS ILLEGAL!! IF YOU HAVE A CONTRACT THAT SAYS YOU CAN HAVE DOGS THEY CANNOT EVICT YOU UNTIL YOUR LEASE IS UP!)

Shelters like BARCS and ASPCA have seen a dramatic increase in dog owners who are afraid to keep their beloved pets. These animals will be even more difficult to adopt out and will be slaughtered!

The weird and the wild about this, is that this act of the courts, has no definitions to make anything concrete. There is no official definition of a Pit Bull Breed. There is no official definition of what “inherently dangerous” means other than the fact it is linked to dynamite. This is a precedent that is causing mass hysteria because it is so nebulous and bizarre.

Now many of you might think, “The media has always told me that pit bulls are vicious beasts and therefore I must believe it. I agree with this ruling.” Think about it, by pulling out one specific group of dogs as being “inherently dangerous” this means that if you or your loved ones are mauled by a german shepherd, or a chow, or a chihuahua (I have been bitten by all of these breeds), those dogs fall into the “one bite rule” and you have to fight extremely hard to get any legal rights on your damages. That bite didn’t happen in the eyes of the law. So essentially, too bad, so sad. Wouldn’t you want fair treatment? Wouldn’t you want to be able to investigate that dog to see if it truly was a hazard to your community?

This ruling is just bad no matter how you look at it. We must do everything we can to make sure that the legislature doesn’t jump on the band wagon and create breed specific legislation, like 16 other states have done. This would mean that a pit bull or pit bull x (in the eyes of the investigator and no one elses) can be seized and euthanized if caught living in the state. We have to make sure we ask our delegate, senators and even governor to be sensible on this. There are thousands of “pit bulls and pit bull xes” in MD. Think about the heartache and body count that this would cause.

As I write this, the Maryland Animal Law Center is working with Vote for Animals to create a clear and concise wording that we can use to write our representatives and let them know that the Solesky ruling was a bad call and we DO NOT WANT any BSL in the state of Maryland.

To view todays meeting please see the Animal Law Centers website: http://www.marylandanimallawcenter.org/
it should be posted shortly.

Some things to keep in mind:
1. Any dog, from the small and yappy to the large and intimidating has the ability to defend itself through biting and can be a liability.

2. If you do own a Bully Breed dog, make sure that you have that dog enrolled in some form of legitimate obedience classes and have a paper trail to it. This may help you argue your case.

3. Sadly, it is advised not to open yourself up to liabilities, which means do not take your dog to a location where it may be provoked. Avoid dog parks, stores, and unfamiliar places and faces.

4. If you do own a business or a dog friendly home, label your location clearly with: Dogs are welcome on the premises; dogs may bite. This may help with your liability should a dog that does not belong to you have an issue.

5. And most importantly of all…please do not discriminate based upon breed. Look at all of the public “pit” attacks, there is something disturbing about all of them, they are generally owned by people who are uneducated, and unable to provide the correct care and training for the dogs. Dogs give back 10 x what they are given. Don’t judge the dog, judge the owner.