CHESTERTOWN State Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin plans to introduce a bill this summer negating a court decision declaring pit bulls inherently dangerous.

In a letter to the Kent County News, Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, decried the April 26 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling, saying it forces pit bull owners to give up their pets. The decision also covers pit bull mixes.

Pit bull adoptions through humane societies around the region, including Kent County, are on hold as a result of the court decision. A General Assembly task force, including Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36-Cecil, is being convened to review the issue.

"Before the unprecedented and misguided court decision on pit bulls, a bite victim seeking damages, would have to prove that the dog's owner knew that the pet had a history of being dangerous or violence-prone. It is no long necessary to prove a pit bill is dangerous," Pipkin wrote.

While the General Assembly holds its regular 90-day session at the beginning of each year, a special session expected to kick off next month on gambling could bring relief to pit bull owners much sooner.

"Several bills, including one I will sponsor during the upcoming July 9 special session, seek to reverse the Court's unfortunate and short-sighted decision and ensure that a dog cannot be presumed dangerous or potentially dangerous based solely on the breed or heritage of the dog," Pipkin said.

The Court of Appeals decision stems from the mauling in Baltimore County of two boys by a pit bull. In his written opinion, retired Court of Appeals Judge Dale R. Cathell said a pit bull's owner and a landlord entitled to prohibit such dogs on "leased premises" are liable for damages in attack cases.

"When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous," Cathell wrote.

For Pipkin, the matter is one of judicial activism leading to the creation of a new law. He called the pit bull decision a "judicial overstep."

"The Court of Appeals has declared all of them dangerous ... whether or not they are. The Court has sentenced all pit bulls and pit bull mixes in Maryland to abandonment and most likely death," Pipkin said.

In a letter to the Washington Post, Maryland Dog Federation President Adrianne Lefkowitz said making a visual identification on pit bulls and pit bull mixes is highly subjective and inaccurate, and DNA tests are unhelpful. Lefkowitz said there is no consensus among experts about what is and is not a pit bull.

Baltimore area resident Teresa Lynn Chagrin, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote a letter to state lawmaker saying her organization opposes any legislation aimed at overturning the court decision.

"The court decision does not ban pit bulls or dissuade responsible guardians from caring for pit bulls who are kept indoors as part of the family, spayed and neutered, well fed, walked, and otherwise kept humanely and responsibly. Rather, it holds negligent owners and those who knowingly harbor pit bulls on their properties responsible for the damage that the dogs may do when they attack," Chagrin wrote.

Chagrin said her office receives daily calls about neglected and abused pit bulls, and those who seek out the breed do so to satisfy the "'macho' image of this animal as a living weapon." She cited a medical journal report from last year calling for pit bulls to be regulated in much the same way as dangerous exotic pets like leopards.

Chagrin suggested mandatory sterilization of pit bulls, which she said has shown to decrease the breed's potential for attack. She said San Francisco and San Bernadino County, Calif. have passed such laws and saw bite rates drop.

"Pit bulls are bred, fought, abused, neglected, and used as guards specifically because of their breed. At this time in history, it is not only fair but also essential that we protect them based on their breed as well," she wrote.

Pipkin and Smigiel both said Maryland is the only state, according to the Humane Society of the United States, to officially regard pit bulls and pit bull mixes as categorically dangerous.

"As it stands now, the court ruling will have a profound effect not only on dogs and their owners, but also on property owners, tenants and landlords. In its ruling, the Court of Appeals has made law; very bad law," Pipkin said.

Pipkin said the task force plans to review Maryland law and laws in other states, along with the viability and definition of breed-specific standards, a dog owner or landlord's ability to secure property insurance and existing breed-specific prohibitions in local jurisdictions.

"Hopefully, the Assembly will address the issue in July and exercise the sound judgment needed to resolve the situation," he wrote.


(3) comments


Way to go Eeeej, wasting more time on trivialities instead of worrying about how to affect change on the Shore. When are you going to do something about jobs here that pay a liveable wage ? All we've heard you do is parrot the party line. What a do-nothing waste for a State Senator !


Declaring ANY breed inherently dangerous is ridiculous - most times it is unsupervised children and bad owners that cause these problems. Blame the deed and not the breed


Pipkin was elected to protect citizens. He is not acting like a citizen but instead a politician. Mortality, Maiming and Mauling study found that a person is losing a body part (arms, legs, ears, noses, eyes) every 4-5 days from a pitbull attack. It is unreasonable to expect people to be random victims to pitbull attacks because the breed is popular. Sacrificing human lives and limbs to a false idol in 2012 A.D. is crazy. The Maryland laws doesn't ban pitbulls but it helps the victims. Just today a N.Y. girl was mauled in her apt building lobby by a pitbull. Residents said the tenants had a pitbull breeding business in the apts for SIX YEARS. The landlord must of known this. The little girl might lose her hand. America has always valued personal responsiblity and the Maryland law makes sense. Pitbulls are the problem. The its the owner not the breed mantra sounds logical but its not. This repetitive slogan is illogical. Other dog breeds owned in much greater numbers also have equal chances of getting neglectful and abuseful owners yet they adapt to human shortcomings and don't maul people or pets at any where near the rate that pitbulls do. Labs are routinely forgotten and chained in backyards and they are the most popular dog breed in American but they are not the top killers, pitbull are. Beagles are routinely penned up in backyards and ignored and given no human socialization yet they do not pose any threat to humans when they get loose. None. Most dog bites are nothing more than a minor annoyance when they bite, as they rarely break the skin, which is why you don't hear about them on the news. If a normal dog is in a fight it will fight until the opponent submits and then stop. Pitbulls don't bite, They maul. They do not stop when the victim submits, they keep on mauling for as long as a half an hour until the pet or human is left in parts. The other problem with pitbulls is that they are extremely strong, and were bred to have fewer pain receptors, and are able to keep breathing while attacking.This makes it extremely hard for people to stop a pitbull attack in progress. News stories are full of stories of strong men being mauled and three or more men being unable to get a pitbull to let go of its victim. Mortality, Maiming and Mauling by Vicious Dogs, Annals of Surgery, April 2011, is study of dog injuries in hospitals spanning the last 15 years. The study found that you have a more than 2500 times higher chance of dying if attacked by a pitbull. In addition it found that pitbulls caused the highest hospital charges, and the most deaths, dismemberments, permanent disability, and disfigurement of all breeds. The study also found that pitbulls attack children, and owners much more often than other breeds AND IT IS FAMILY LOVED AND UNABUSED PITBULLS THAT ARE MAULING PEOPLE. Despite be given all the love and care that other dogs enjoy, these pitbulls suddenly turn suddenly and the owners are always shocked by the sudden change in behavior. Alexandra Semyonova, a world reknown animal researcher and author of the book, The 100 Silliest Things People say About Dogs, says pitbulls have a disconnect between the thinking and impulse control centers in the brain and a different chemical make up in the brain. Just as you can't see a gene that suddenly turns on cancer, you can't see the gene that is suddenly activated in a pitbull making them violent. I personally know of several people who had a pitbull turn on them after years of normal behavior. Personal accounts of owners who had "nice" pitbulls doesn't mean that pitbulls are not dangerous. This again is illogical. The statistics on pitbulls seriously harming people at a much higher rate than other dogs are overwhelming. You can't love out genes or untrain genes. Family owned and loved pitbulls can turn on a dime. If you believe that ptbulls are just like any other dog, and regurgitate the false "its the owner not the breed mantra" you would of believed the world was flat, too Just because something sounds good doesn't make it true. http://walkforvictimsofpitbulls.blogspot.com/

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