Just a few weeks ago, I spend a wonderful evening at a local theater watching a screening of Beyond The Myth (a film about Breed Specific Legislation), along with tons of other area dog and pittie lovers. The screening was brought to us courtesy of Jasmine’s House and B-More Dog. I think almost everyone I’ve met in the dog-rescue world was there that night. It’s a very moving film. But all I kept saying was how thankful I was that we live in such a pitbull-friendly city, and how thankful I was that BSL hasn’t effected me at all. Other advocates agreed. Yes, just 30 miles south of us is Prince George’s County where there is a breed ban, and several of our fosters have come from there. But, here in Baltimore, it seems like light years away. Nothing like that would EVER affect us. Or so we thought.
Last Friday a decision made by the Maryland Court of Appeals deeming pit bull and pit bull type dogs dangerous. Period. No questions asked. WHAT?! It was a shock to all of us. After heads spinning and deep breaths being taken, as well as a few tears shed, we all slowly digested this information. What, exactly, does it mean?
Well I’m no expert, and I’m not exactly law and policy-savvy, but here’s what I got from it:
- It’s a dog-bite liability law first and foremost. Huh? Yea, that’s what I said. Basically the case-law says that if there is a dog bite, and the plaintiff (the complainer filing the suit) can prove that the dog is a pitbull or part pitbull (we won’t get into HOW they would prove that), then they don’t have to prove the dog is dangerous. According to the case, ALL pitbull and pitbull type dogs are dangerous. Period. No questions asked. So that’s a problem because though it is not banning the dogs, it is public law which is breed-specific. Yuck.
- So the liability part…who’s responsible? The owner, naturally. However, the big kicker is that now landlords can be held liable too. This.Is.Huge. Now, immediately, many landlords across the state are going to stop renting to pitbull owners. That means tons of previously owned dogs could wind up in shelters because some renters may not be able to find affordable housing with their dogs. It means that many shelters are going to change their policies on adopting pitbull type dogs to renters. Shelters across the state are already reconsidering their adoptions of pit bull and pit bull type dogs. To EVERYONE. Within 24 hours, I’d heard of FIVE county shelters that suspended the adoption of pit and pit type dogs, and that’s not including all the rescues and smaller non-public shelters.
It also means ten steps backwards. It’s disheartening and discouraging to say the least.
Now what? We take it slow. As I said, I’m no expert. I did send a respectful letter to my senator and delegates. I will be looking to B-More dog a lot. If you are a Maryland resident, I encourage you to write your delegates and senators. I also encourage you to go like B-More dog on facebook. They were, after all, created to do just this (even though they do SO much more on a regular basis). B-More dog formed in 2007 to speak out against BSL in Baltimore County. They have some experience in this area and I’m so thankful to be a part of this advocacy group.
This is the time to come together to work collectively, respectfully and logistically. I probably won’t be blogging a whole lot about this specific issue during the process, but I will certainly keep the facebook page updated on the happenings and need-to-knows. The people that need to be contacted, have been. We have a lot of supporters behind us (Best Friends, HSUS, etc) as well people in the legal field.
What can you do in the mean-time? Write you politicians! And now is more of a time than ever to not set your dog up for failure. Be a responsible owner. Don’t leave your dogs unattended outside. And of course, spread pitbull love.
***If your interested in finding out more about Harvey and his incredible story, or interested in adopting him, please visit him here: Harvey’s Story.***