Legislative Update 2012 -
Focus on Breed Specific Legislation
by James B.
On May 7, 2012 the Maryland
Veterinary Medical Association released a statement by then
President Thomas Armitage, and supported by the Board of
Directors, in opposition of breed specific legislation. This was
in response to a recent court ruling that changed the common law
practice of a “no assumed liability” if a dog with no prior
history of being dangerous bites the first time. The Tracey v
Solesky decision instead imposes strict liability on owners of
“pit bulls and pit bull mixes” when dogs so designated bite a
The Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, along with other
animal related associations including the AVMA, has released
similar statements in support of the appeal. Alternatively
legislation that addresses the issue of responsible dog
ownership and bite incidences without designating a specific
breed would be endorsed. Maryland is currently the only state
with a court ruling that places liability on a specific breed.
The court’s attempt to promote responsible dog ownership and
safety for the communities of Maryland has erroneously assumed
that all pit bull looking dogs are inherently dangerous.
Additionally, the sources relied upon for this ruling is
questionable. We are
unaware of any scientific knowledge that verifies one breed of
dog is more likely to bite or injure a person, and currently
there is lack of any reliable DNA testing which distinguishes a
pit bull from a pit bull mix or any other breed.
Recently the court of appeals did return a ruling that removes
the “pit bull mix” from the decision. The Maryland Legislature
in a special session also formed a task force to investigate
these concerns, and the House of Representatives formulated a
bill through the Judicial Committee that instead left liability
to only dogs that were running at large.
This bill failed however, and is not currently scheduled for
The state of Maryland is currently in a state of political
stalemate. The January session will no doubt revisit this issue,
but in the meantime, the ruling of Tracey v Solesky stands.
Currently in the state of Maryland there are a number of
counties where animal control administrations either do not
adopt out pit bulls when abandoned or have laws preventing
ownership. Rescue groups have long been overwhelmed with the
current restrictions and have complained that this has created
yet another obstacle to finding needed homes for dogs that have
proven adoptable. Veterinarians are also feeling the impact,
with increasing numbers of requests for records to reflect a dog
to be a “pit bull mix” and not a pit bull. Since there exists no
specific testing for documenting a “pit bull” veterinarians are
obligated to accept the client’s word on this matter.
The Board of Directors and the Legislative committee will
continue to follow events this upcoming year and report to the
membership our positions and efforts.
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Summary of Tracey v