Maryland Passes Breed Neutral Dog Bite Liability Legislation

The House of Delegates gave final approval to breed neutral dog bite liability legislation to address the consequences of the 2012 Court of Appeals ruling in Tracey v. Solesky. With passage of this legislation, lawmakers overwhelmingly agreed that public safety is best served by holding dog owners equally liable if their dog injures someone, regardless of the dog’s breed.

This legislation, SB 247 and HB 73, championed by Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery and Del. Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, is the product of two years of negotiations between the chambers to arrive at a compromise standard for dog owner liability. Dog bite victims and dog owners alike benefit from the legislation, which presumes that dog owners know that all dogs can bite (regardless of breed), preserves the dog owner’s ability to present evidence in their dog’s defense, and holds dog owners strictly liable for injuries inflicted while a dog is running at large. It also removes the strict liability imposed by the Court on landlords and other third parties. HB 73 is expected to receive a final vote tomorrow, while SB 247 now goes to Gov. Martin O’Malley for his signature.

A large coalition of animal welfare groups, animal shelters, dog owner advocacy organizations, rental housing providers, individual advocates and others supported this legislation.

Sen. Frosh said: “I am glad we could work out a compromise that is fair to victims, dog owners and landlords.”

Del. Simmons said: “I am grateful to the many citizens of our state who have worked together with me to craft a compromise that protects both the victims of dog bites and the owners of dogs. This compromise includes greater protections for those injured by dogs while preserving the important due process rights of dog owners and the cherished right to defend oneself in court.”

Tami Santelli, Maryland state director for The HSUS said: “Passage of this compromise legislation ends this disgraceful era of court sanctioned canine profiling, in which families with pit bull-type dogs were forced to choose between their homes and their beloved pets. Lawmakers today voted against singling out particular breeds and in favor of raising the bar for all dog owners to protect victims of dog bites. We are so grateful to Sen. Frosh and Del. Simmons for their leadership and determination to find a solution for all Maryland families and their beloved canine companions.”