Thursday, May 31, 2012

Maryland court ruling update

There’s some hope on the horizon for those who are concerned about the impact a recent court ruling declaring all pit bulls inherently dangerous could have on Maryland landlords and pit bull owners.

Maryland lawmakers have announced their intention to create a 10-member task force to study the court decision and make recommendations to the General Assembly on potential legislation to address the ruling.

Also, the Baltimore Sun has reported that an attorney representing the Towson landlord named in the Tracey v. Solesky case, which spurred the court ruling, has filed a motion forreconsideration, asking the court to re-examine the evidence that led to the decision. 

"Untold numbers of dog owners in Maryland are now being told to abandon their pets or leave their homes," the motion says. "They have been given no hearing, no notice, no opportunity to participate in a democratic forum ... The separation of powers exists for a reason."

The Washington Post recently ran a story on some Maryland advocates’ efforts to raise awareness about the fact that their pit bulls are part of their families and make great pets. Maryland advocacy group B-More Dog’s Pit Bulls on Parade, which takes place monthly in Baltimore, was the centerpiece of the story. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

How can the Maryland court ruling on pit bulls be changed?

Ever since the Maryland Court of Appeals issued its controversial ruling declaring pit bulls inherently dangerous, we’ve heard a lot of questions from people about what they can do to help reverse or change the court’s decision. Here’s some information we obtained from a Maryland resident familiar with the legislative and judiciary process that you might find informative as you try to figure out how to respond.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the highest court in Maryland. In order to take this decision to the next level, which would be the U.S. Supreme Court, one of the parties involved must file what’s called a Petition for Writ of Certiorari (cert petition), which is a request for the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from a lower court. The Supreme Court will decide whether to grant the cert based on their findings of how the lower court’s decision affects the parties’ federal constitutional rights.

The parties involved have a limited period of time to file a cert petition. In this case the likely person would be the defendant’s lawyer.  It doesn’t matter if the defendant herself wants to do this or not.  The lawyer is a party to the appeals court decision and can file. Supreme Court cert petitions are often well-orchestrated endeavors by many individuals or groups that have a stake in overturning the appellate court’s decision.

Alternately, a special “motion for reconsideration” can also be filed to request that the court review the facts of the case again. The motion to reconsider places before the chamber a question that has been previously decided. There is a group currently working on filing the motion for reconsideration.

Another way to change the common law is by statute, or the introduction of a bill through the legislature (Maryland General Assembly).

The Maryland legislature has the ability to change Maryland common law. This is done through the political process by lobbying your legislative representative.  Because it’s a political process you have to sell it to your representative and persuade them why it’s the wrong decision, not just for their constituents but for all Maryland residents as well as many Maryland businesses (insurance companies, dog training facilities, veterinarians, dog walkers, etc.)

If you can get your representative to introduce a bill, then the process can begin to enact new legislation that effectively nullifies this new common law. And, of course, that’s where all of us come in, by being able to participate in this process (unlike the judicial process, which cannot by changed by lobbying).

The Humane Society of the United States is making it easier for Maryland residents to contact their representatives. They have a simple how-to form on their website explaining how to contact your representatives and what you can say to them here.

For specific talking points in regards to Tracey v. Solesky the best place to start is by reading the dissenting opinion written by Justice Clayton Greene Jr., which gives a point-by-point detailing of the problems with the majority opinion.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Help PBRC while you shop!

If you love Pit Bull Rescue Central, you can support us while you shop! The Pit Bull Rescue Central Visa Platinum Rewards Card is available now, and you can apply for yours at this link. For every approved card that’s used within 90 days of activation, the bank donates $50 to PBRC. After that, a percentage from each purchase will be donated to PBRC. Better yet, every time you hand over your card to a cashier, you’re providing good breed PR because you get to customize your card with one of five adorable, pit-positive images. For more details on the card, click here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Maryland court's ruling on pit bulls

Last week, Pit Bull Rescue Central was as shocked as many others in the pit bull community when we learned that the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a ruling (link to pdf) that changed the state’s common law in such a way that could have seriously detrimental impacts for pit bull owners.

“When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous,” the ruling reads. It goes even further to state that if a landlord has a tenant who owns a pit bull and “has reason to know that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises.”

This means that pit bulls living in Maryland no longer have the benefit of the doubt – while other dogs in the state have to be proven to be aggressive if they bite a person, pit bulls are automatically assumed to be aggressive just because they are pit bulls.

This creates an unfair two-tier system upon which dogs that bite will be judged – regardless of the nature of the bite. If the dog is a pit bull, the dog will automatically be assumed to be dangerous. If the dog is of any other breed, no matter how badly the dog has bitten someone, it will not be held to the same standard.  

Pit Bull Rescue Central believes this misguided ruling could have serious consequences for families across the state. By focusing attention on the way dogs look, instead of holding dogs of any breed accountable for their behavior, the Maryland Court is establishing a precedent of prejudice and ineffective policy that puts both people and animals at risk. PBRC hopes that Maryland legislators and landlords will work quickly toward a more humane resolution to the issue of liability. 

At the moment, it is unclear what recourse pit bull owners in Maryland have to fight this ruling, but we are assured by many pit bull advocates and legal experts that efforts are under way to research this situation and look for ways to challenge it.   

In the meantime, we urge all pit bull owners in Maryland not to panic. Whenever laws or rulings like this pass, some people rush to shelters to surrender their dogs because they think they have no other choice. But there is no reason to do so. Your dog relies on your for everything, and he or she is no more dangerous now than before this ruling was passed. This ruling does not ban pit bulls or force pit bull owners to take any special measures to keep their dogs.  

Here’s some additional information for Maryland pit bull owners:


If you live in a rental home and you have a lease, and your lease permits you to have a pit bull, your landlord should honor that lease as long as you are otherwise not in violation of the lease terms. If your landlord does try to terminate your lease or tell you that you have to give up your dog, we recommend that you review Maryland landlord/tenant law at this link and consider consulting a lawyer before giving up your apartment or rental home. If you do need to find a new place to live, check out the resources at


If you have a tenant who owns a pit bull that has not caused problems, this court ruling does not mean that the dog living in your rental property is suddenly any more dangerous than it was the day before the ruling was issued. Review the best practices of responsible ownership with your tenants and make sure your tenants understand to never leave their dogs unattended outdoors or to let them roam at large; it is recommended that you add a rider to the lease that requires your tenants’ dogs be spayed or neutered. We urge you to share the educational materials on our site with your tenants. 


If you are a homeowner, we urge you to research pit bull friendly insurance options. The ruling may not have an impact on your homeowners insurance, but in case it does, PBRC has a list of pit bull-friendly insurance companies on our website, which you can find at this link


Pit bull owners in Maryland should contact their state and local representatives to respectfully express their concern about this court ruling. If you aren’t sure who your local representative is, you can search on the Maryland General Assembly website to find your senators and house representatives. Remember that it's very important to be concise, polite and clear in your communications. If you need help drafting a letter to your representatives, Stop BSL has published useful letter-writing tips on its website, and you can visit our BSL page for talking points on why breed-specific laws are ineffective.

Multiple organizations – in Maryland and across the country – are on your side. If you would like to get in touch with local groups trying to gather resources to help fellow pit bull owners, contact B-More Dog (you can ask to join their Facebook group here) or Jasmine's House rescue, both located in Baltimore, or Maryland Votes for Animals. Join their mailing lists and ask what you can do to help. There's also a Facebook group called Stop Maryland Pit Bull Discrimination that has been established to keep Maryland residents informed about this court ruling. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

PBRC now accepting entries for our Happy Endings 2013 calendar!

Have you ever envisioned your rescued pit bull gracing the pages of a calendar? Does your pup have good looks, charm, a touching story, really cute costumes or an affinity for sports? If so, here is your chance to make your dreams a reality and share your rescued pit bull with the world!

We are opening submissions for PBRC's 2013 Happy Endings Calendar! An annual tradition since 2002, our Happy Endings Calendar is full of accurate breed information, heart-warming rescue stories, and 12 months of beautiful color photographs of our supporters’ rescued pit bulls! We are accepting pictures now through June 30, 2012.

All the information you need regarding photo specifications, submission, cost, and other details can be found here.

All the proceeds from the photo submissions, as well as the sale of the calendars, are used to further PBRC’s programming to help pit bulls in need. Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity to have your furry friend be a pin-up and to help others in need.