Dog Bite Battle Brews In MD - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Dog Bite Battle Brews In MD

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MARYLAND - Should a dog owner be held liable if their pet bites someone.

A new Maryland Senate bill would hold dog owners liable when their canine bites an "innocent victim," unless they can prove the animal doesn't have a history of violence.

"The defendant might be able to use what might be considered character witnesses...document classes that the pet attended, whether it's a show dog, pedigree things like that," says Nathan Long, a Salisbury based defense attorney.

But a state senator wants to put owners on a tight leash with another bill.  This one fights for strict liability, where the owner is always responsible for any attack.

The three year debate stems from a 2012 lawsuit, making owners almost automatically responsible.

Long says "they also in that ruling stated pit bulls are inherently dangerous animals."

 Animal rights advocates on Delmarva argue current laws have made it difficult to find homes for what some consider dangerous breeds.

"We often have conversations with people who still have stigmas with pit bulls based on what they've heard," says Kelly Austin, with he Worcester County Humane Society.

Whichever law is passed will  apply to all breeds.

The Senate will likely pass the one bill, removing liability if it can be proven the dog doesn't have a history of violence.

If it's passed, that bill will then be sent to the House.

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