23 Aug 2014
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Pit Bull Owners: What are Your Legal Risks in Maryland?

An attorney reveals two situations that could mean legal liability for pit bull owners.

Pit Bull Owners: What are Your Legal Risks in Maryland?

When there is an attack involving a dog, it's not always clear what the liability is for the dog's owner—especially when the dog is a pit bull.

woman was attacked by two dogs police believed to be a pit bull mix on Dec. 29 in Glen Burnie. The woman told WJZ-13 CBS Baltimore that she  lost half her pinky finger in the attack. No owner came forward, although police said the dogs were seen entering a vehicle at the end of the street.

man and his dog were injured in a pit bull attack in another incident in Anne Arundel County last month. The man told police two pit bulls came into his fenced-in yard and one of them attacked his Chihuahua. The dog's owner was located and the pit bull was taken into custody by Animal Control.

What the legal liabilities are for pit bull owners in Maryland? Annapolis-based attorney Drew Cochran answered this question in  his blog, which also includes information about a bill in the state senate that aims to remove pit bulls from breed-specific restrictions that make owners liable if pit bull bite.

"Pit bull owners in Maryland can be held civilly liable for damages arising out of an attack by their dogs," he wrote in  his blog.

Cochran points out that Maryland has leash laws, and owners are required to contain and control their pets.

"There are two major situations that put pit bull owners in Maryland at risk of liability: The first involves the owner knowing or having reason to believe his or her dog has violent tendencies. For instance, if the dog has bitten someone before, the owner will be held responsible if it bites again.

In the second scenario, the dog owner must be negligent. Say, for example, that your dog bit someone in the past. The owner must now exercise extreme caution and control over the dog because there’s a clear expectation that the animal could cause harm and injury again."

The topic remains controversial and will likely be heavily debated in the upcoming year as lawmakers discuss it.

"Pit bulls are a public safety issue that demands a higher standard than those who own poodles," Cochran wrote.

Click here to read more in the blog post: What Legal Liability Do Pit Bull Owners Have In Maryland?

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