We never saw it coming….

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.

Two MABB foster parents I've met and been inspired by. With Tim and available for adoption: Harvey.

***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.***

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16 thoughts on “We never saw it coming….

  1. Beautifully and responsibly done post Jess. Thank you. This very sad. What we need for all species and breeds is legislation against cruel and neglectful human owners, not their pets. Good luck Maryland Pit advocates!

  2. I keep getting a knot in the pit of my stomach every time I read about this court ruling. I’m so glad that there are responsible and level headed people working through this issue. Best of luck to all.

  3. I currently live in Tennessee and this scares me so much, since Maryland is light years ahead of us in many ways. This is a very slippery slope and I foresee many horrible legislative efforts against dogs of all kinds. I hope that the pitbull community can show reason to lawmakers!

  4. You can use change.org to set up and online petition..Also it will let you set up templates of letters that can be sent to your representatives and alot of people will tend to do them since all they have to do is click their name and info into it and click send…the letter is already set up there…

  5. Great post Jess. It is truly a shame that instead of moving forwards, many a times government takes many steps back. My husband wrote a paper in BSL, and while doing his research, he found that places in Canada are reverting their laws against Pitbulls. I believe Ohio just did this same thing.

    The laws and penalties need to change. Its about punishing the responsible party (owners) not the dogs.

    I live in Raleigh, NC, and so far no restrictions, but I always worry that at any moment, things can change. The police chief in Dunn, NC wants to ban Pitbulls. I think if this ever happened where I live, I’d pick up my dogs and leave. I don’t know where for sure, but I would never give them up. Both my husband and I have talked about this and we both agree = )

    Best of luck to all involved in turning this decision around!
    ~ L.

  6. Jess, Thanks for the B-More Dog shout out! What’s interesting is that the founding members of B-More Dog met in response to THIS CASE. The breed-specific legislation that was proposed (to require muzzles on pit bulls in public, amongst other crazy restrictions) in 2007 was in direct response to the incident that led to the subsequent filing of this lawsuit. Of course once the legislation was defeated we realized that our energies could be concentrated in other ways to help pit bulls and their owners throughout the city.

    Maryland is known for being a more progressive state, so this is really mind-blowing. This case not only goes against the world-wide trend of revoking BSL, like Liliana mentions above, but actually changes “common law” which is the centuries-old basis of our judicial system. As a paralegal and law dork, this is insane to me.

    The bright spot that is helping me deal with this, is knowing that some of the best legal minds in the country are working to do everything possible to get this overturned. I have confidence that common sense will prevail in the end. I just don’t know how long it will take us to get there. But pit bull owners, like their dogs, are quite tenacious!

    I hope that all dog owners recognize how dangerous this is. The opinion also leaves the door open to include more breeds in the future. All the non-pit bull owners should be just as outraged because tomorrow the government could be coming after your breed.

  7. This is a perfect example of why ALL pit bull advocates need to educate themselves about BSL. Just because you might live somewhere that currently doesn’t have BSL laws on the books doesn’t mean they might not be right around the corner. It’s a scary, scary thought, but we ALL have to be prepared, respectful and educated…Educate yourself, neighbors, friends, lawmakers, shelter workers and local policy makers.

  8. It is truly unbelievable that we have come to this. PG County was bad enough, now pitties in shelters all throughout the mid-Atlantic–who will have an even smaller pool of potential homes– will suffer the consequences of prejudice, plain and simple.

  9. I really despise ‘reactive’ legislation such as this, governments and councils are quick to make laws in an attempt to ‘control’ a situation or so-called issue rather than exploring the real issues and working to resolve them from the ground up. In Australia BSL is in place in a couple of states and the level of application varies but still we do not have compulsory registeration, desexing or micro-chipping and we’re still selling dogs in pet stores at shopping malls so how is BSL going to prevent dog bites/attacks? Any idiot can buy or breed dogs for easy money but it is the dogs that suffer and here the staffordshire bull terriers and cattle dogs are the among most popular dogs to own so they’re also highly represented in our shelters.

  10. Pingback: Show “Pittieful Love” by Fighting BSL « Wayward Dogs

  11. Pingback: What’s in a name? | Pittieful Love

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