A divided Maryland Court of Appeals on Tuesday tried to pull back slightly on its controversial ruling that all types of pit bulls are inherently dangerous.
But animal rights groups warned the decision could create more problems for dog owners than had it left its previous ruling on hold.
Maryland’s highest court ruled in March that pit bulls and cross breeds of the dogs are more dangerous than other breeds. It made Maryland the only state in the country to hold owners and landlords of just one breed strictly liable for injuries caused by pets they own or that they allow to reside on their property.
The ruling had been on hold pending a request for reconsideration by a landlord held liable for a 2007 mauling of a Crofton boy.
On Tuesday, the court reaffirmed that it believes pit bulls are inherently dangerous. The court, however, did modify its ruling when it came to “cross-bred” pit bulls. It said the judges had lacked the evidence to hold such animals to the same standard as pure breeds. Figuring out whether a dog was partially a pit bull could create chaos for the courts, the judges said.
“Pit bull” can be a reference to at least three different breeds, the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
“The ruling didn’t do anything really to clarify the confusion,” said Tami Santelli, Maryland director for the Humane Society of the United States. “What is a pure-bred pit bull?”
“With the failure of the General Assembly to remedy the situation last week during their special session, Marylanders are now exposed to the full consequences of the court decision. Families will now have to make an agonizing choice between losing their homes or their beloved family pets,” Santelli said.
Santelli said owners of a 1,500-apartment complex in Baltimore had already ordered that pit bulls would have to be removed from the premises immediately.