Running with Squirrels

fostering dogs that need it most

My letter to elected officials regarding new Maryland dog law

As most of you know, the Court of Appeals of Maryland recently modified the Common Law to specifically discriminate against “pit bull dogs and cross-bred pit bull dogs”.  This modification adopts strict liability for all owners and landlords regarding these dogs in their possession or on their property.  The unintentional consequences of this are far-reaching and uniformly negative.  Click here for a summary of the ruling, or here for the full Court opinion.

In an effort to make my voice heard, I have sent the following letter to the 3 state delegates and state senator that represent my district.  I encourage you all to do the same.  You can find contact information for your representatives here.  Feel free to copy/edit what I have if it is in line with your beliefs, or phrase things differently and craft your own letter … whichever the case, PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!!!

Also note, one of the judges in the case (Robert Bell) that ruled in favor on the modification is in Baltimore City and up for re-election this year.  I am not eligible to vote there but if you are and disagree with his actions … speak loudly by voting him out!

**** I want to be abundantly clear with this … I sympathize greatly with the victims of all dog attacks.  I support their ability to live without fear of negligent owners and their right to compensation when appropriate.  I believe there should be strict laws that penalize irresponsible owners.  My issue is that this should be for ALL dogs … not just those with physical attributes that may appear to be “cross-bred pit bull dogs” (whatever that even means).*****

__________________________________________

 

Dear Del.  _______,

I am writing today to express my disapproval and request your help regarding the recent modification to the Common Law that adopts strict liability in respect to attacks on humans by pit bull dogs and cross-bred pit bull dogs set forth in the Court of Appeals of Maryland No. 53 filed on April 26, 2012.  In this new modification of the Common Law, a strict liability standard is established for “pit bull and cross-bred pit bull mixes” which places all judgment squarely on the appearance of a dog rather than the circumstances surrounding the incident and responsibility of its owner.

The Court bases this ruling on its perception that pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently vicious and dangerous animals without providing any factual predicate or expert testimony to back this claim.  The Court then proceeds to cite highly disputed dog bite statistics and unrelated dog attack incidents while ignoring scientific and empirical data from respected international and national organizations that condemn breed-specific legislation and promote effective, research-based means of minimizing dog attacks in communities across the world.  There are even instances in the citations provided by the majority opinion that contradict their very conclusion in this law modification, such as the Veterinary Medical Association Report (2000) which questions the success of breed-specific liability requirements and urges the consideration of factors completely unrelated to the breed or appearance of dogs.

I want to be very clear that I am sympathetic to the victims of the vicious dog attacks that seem to occur all too often in our society, and whole-heartedly support progressive laws to prevent such horrific and preventable incidents.  However, the path to preventing these tragedies is not grounded in enacting discriminatory laws that establish liability solely based on the physical appearance of a dog without accounting for the actions and responsibility of its owner.  Rather, it is accomplished by enacting enforceable laws that punish irresponsible owners who negligently harbor dangerous pets, regardless of their physical appearance.  All pet owners must be responsible for their animals and should be held uniformly accountable for their actions.

At a time when states such as Ohio and Massachusetts are backing away from ineffective and discriminatory breed-specific laws and adopting more successful (and affordable) dangerous dog laws which apply to all dogs equally, Maryland has taken a huge step back and allowed the perception of four judges (with three judges in dissent of this opinion) to drastically alter our Common Law and discriminate against a large population of our residents without cause.  While the Court of Appeals does maintain the authority to alter the Common Law, this practice has rarely been undertaken and usually under circumstances where the law was clearly wrong or new facts had arisen that impacted the law.  In this case, neither has occurred and precedent indicates that this issue is better addressed by the state legislature rather than legislating from the bench.

In summary, the ruling of the Court of Appeals to adopt strict liability for certain dogs based on physical appearance alone while ignoring behavior and owner responsibility is misinformed, ineffective, and discriminatory.  The decision was made without the appropriate consideration for unintended consequences and expert testimony regarding how to successfully minimize preventable dog attacks.  As a result of this, many Maryland residents are being unfairly discriminated against based on the appearance of their pets while irresponsible owners with dogs that do not look like “pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls” are held to a lower standard despite their negligence.

Can I count on your support to sponsor and promote legislation that will address this issue?

I would like to thank you very much for considering my opinion on this matter and for your dedication to helping the residents of Maryland.

Sincerely,

__________________

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29 thoughts on “My letter to elected officials regarding new Maryland dog law

  1. This is a great letter and I have already shared it on FB and will take it with me to the MD Votes for Animals MVFA meeting this week to share as an example.

  2. Hello- I am the co-coordinator for the foster dog program with the Animal Welfare League of Frederick, MD. Would you mind if we duplicate your letter and share it with our membership and start sending it out on email blasts for everyone to start using?

    • Absolutely feel free to pass along this letter and/or make any changes you would like. The idea is just to get the ball rolling and start making our voices heard. If you do pass it along, please use the updated version I just posted that has better spacing and fixes a few grammar edits I caught this morning. Thanks!

  3. Lori L. on said:

    This legislation makes me so upset.

    I am also canceling my subscription to the Baltimore Sun newspaper due to the recent column by Dan Rodricks.

    • I couldn’t agree more … his writing was misinformed garbage that has no place in a respected news outlet. I hope that you also informed the Sun that your reason for cancelling your subscription is squarely due to the irresponsible journalism that they run. Rodricks got thoroughly bashed in the comments to the his article and I was thrilled to see very level-headed and thoughtful comments prevailing given the highly emotional nature of this topic.

  4. VERY well written! Kudos! Let’s hope these words don’t fall on deaf ears.

  5. Who do I write letters to exactly?? State Senator or US Senator? US Representative, State Delegate?? I don’t want to send to the wrong people and I don’t want to leave anyone out. Thanks, great letter!!

  6. Great letter! Thanks for writing, and sharing. Ugh, we’re in this for the long haul but united I think we can get this overturned.

  7. Nancy on said:

    Well written! May I use your letter to respond to our HOA who just notified us that pit bulls, dobermans ans Rottweilers will be banned to new tenants, period? I am furious and want to respond.

    • Absolutely, there are also great resources to be found elsewhere that may carry more weight with the HOA … such as the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Farm Foundation, Veterinary Medical Association, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, etc …

  8. This is an awsome letter and I will pass it on to my daughter that lives in Calvert County Maryland, so she may send it to the officals up there.

  9. Very well written! I’ll be sharing on my FB wall!

  10. Debbi on said:

    Thank you! This letter was so well written – I used it (almost word for word) when reaching out to my senator and three delegates.

  11. Ali Mohamed on said:

    Ian,
    I can only say this ruling is viscious. I was befriended with my neighbor’s, and friend, beautiful pitbull and developed a relationship with him that lasted untill his untimely departure from our world due unknown causes. Then, I got to know the true gentle side of pitbulls, not as they are portrayed. Unfortunately, I don’t live in Maryland anymore to support you with voting someone out but this court ruling would certainly take Maryland a huge step backward. This ruling must be appealed.

    Ali
    Corvallis, Oregon

  12. Rhya Marohn on said:

    Excellent letter, it is so important to focus on logical points and leave excessive emotion out of these types of communications (even though so many of us are so very saddened and angered by this). I am a Maryland veterinarian and pit bull owner and will definitely be sending a modified version of this to my reps. By the way, while not the legislative branch, it can’t hurt for the Governor’s office to be inundated with letters as well.

  13. Todd on said:

    As a longtime Pitbull owner (all rescues) I am deeply saddened by this recent turn of events in the state. Unfortunately, these politically charged times tend to breed very political/liberal appelate courts that don’t use the rule of law or logic in many of their rulings, this is a prime case IMHO. I would think that organizations would be able to help Pit friendly State politicians model legislation after Ohios HB14, where the state Senate changed the 20-year old definition of “Dangerous and vicious dogs” by removing the reference to pit bulls requiring that evidence be provided proving that Pitbulls are in fact dangerous and vicious, as it relates to the breed.

    This absurd ruling will unfortunately result in many wonderful dogs being PTS because of the ignorance of the appelate court and it’s supporters, including the imbeciles at the Baltimore Sun and many other media organizations that help further the ignorance about the breed we love.

    Sad that we’re slowly becoming California!

  14. Donna on said:

    Thank you for sharing your letter. I will use it as a basis for my correspondence to my elected officials and will pass it on as well. You have done a great service for all dogs and their owners.

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

  16. Pingback: My second letter regarding the Maryland dog law | Running with Squirrels

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