It isn’t really the federal government’s business one way or the other, but the Obama administration is at least lending moral support to the idea that animal control laws should not single out particular dog breeds as inherently ultradangerous. A court decision in Maryland establishing elevated liability for bites by pit bulls has resulted in continued pressure for pet abandonment and a resulting flow of related breeds into the animal shelter system. [Arin Greenwood, HuffPo; earlier here, here, etc.]
North Carolinians should hold on to their long-established right to own whatever dog breed they prefer without having to petition the authorities for permission, argues Patrick at Popehat. The bill, filed by state Rep. Rodney Moore (D-Charlotte), would give police departments discretion to deny permits to would-be owners and would require that owners “submit to a criminal background check and enroll in a four hour course sponsored by the Humane Society on responsible ownership of pit bulls, rottweilers, mastiffs, chows, and similar ‘aggressive dog breeds.’” More: OhMiDog.
P.S. Flagged by GraniteGrok, a commenter at the News & Observer: “When are we going to close the dog show loophole?”
In the aftermath of a controversial decision by the state’s highest court (earlier here, here, here, here), etc.) the Maryland legislature is proceeding in its task of devising new rules to govern lawsuits over dog bite injuries:
But the House and Senate versions differ markedly on legal liability for a pet owner when his or her dog bites someone. The House bill would allow an owner to show a “preponderance of the evidence” that a pet did not have a tendency to bite. The Senate version requires a stricter legal standard of “clear and convincing” proof that the dog is not aggressive — making it easier for victims of bites to sue and win.
It does not require a law degree to figure out that without clear rules on what makes a dog safe, lawyers will see bite victims as cash cows. [Sen. Bobby] Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, [who sits on the Judicial Proceedings Committee that crafted the bill,] apparently already does. A visit to his website, http://www.bobbyzirkinlaw.com/, makes it clear. One of the first images is a white dog that looks like a pit bull, teeth bared, lunging against its leash.
After noting that victims of dog bites should seek medical attention, he suggests they “Call the Law Office of Bobby Zirkin at 410-356-4455 immediately and come in for your free consultation on this important matter.”
The committee’s chair, Sen. Brian Frosh of Montgomery County, also practices with an injury firm, though his own practice tends toward commercial disputes. [Marta Mossburg, Frederick News-Post] Incidentally, the weekly adopt-an-animal feature of the same newspaper is now filled with pictures of ownerless dogs with pit bull lineage.
I’ve been writing more lately on policy issues arising in my adopted state, such as the boat tax and Baltimore’s fight with liquor stores, and you can keep up by following my local Twitter account @walterolsonmd:
- If you think the current federal crusade on disparate minority school discipline rates is unreasonable, check out the Maryland state board of education’s even loopier plans for racial quotas in discipline [Hans Bader and letter, Roger Clegg/Center for Equal Opportunity] “However, there’s no plan for gender balance in school discipline.” [Joanne Jacobs]
- After the state’s high court stigmatized pit bulls as distinctively dangerous, the state legislature has (as warned of in this space) reacted by extending liability to owners of all dogs, “first bite” or not [WaPo] “The trial lawyer’s expert just testified he sees dogs as a man or woman’s ego on the end of a leash.” [Mike Smigiel]
- A Washington Post article asks: “Is the ‘nanny state’ in Montgomery working?” (No, but it makes councilors in the affluent liberal redoubt feel good about themselves.) And even in Montgomery, councilman George Leventhal (D-At Large) spots a Laffer Curve [Dan Mitchell, Cato at Liberty]
- Also in Montgomery, county slates vote next month on union-backed bill to require service contractors to take over employment of displaced workers for 90 days [Gazette] Leventhal is caustic: “I do not only work for SEIU 32BJ. My colleagues may feel they do.” [Rachel Baye, Examiner]
- Despite its solicitude for the SEIU, the county’s concern for low-income workers has its limits, as when property owners seek to increase the stock of affordable housing near jobs by dividing one-family residences into two-family [Ben Ross, Greater Greater Washington]
- “Doctors, hospitals concerned about hefty malpractice awards” [Baltimore Sun]
- MD public pension planners whistle through graveyard [Hayley Peterson, Washington Examiner, Tom Coale/HoCoRising, Ivan Osorio, CEI "Open Market"] The state still hasn’t shaken its AAA bond rating, but Annapolis lawmakers are working to change that by unionizing more state workers [Washington Times]
Last month Maryland’s highest court, adopting what is known as a “breed-specific” standard, declared pit bulls inherently dangerous and subject to strict liability for their owners. Humane and rescue activists were alarmed at the prospect of insurance-rate pressure on pit owners and an influx into animal shelters of surrendered pets who, even if well-behaved, might prove unadoptable and end up euthanized. They should have been careful what they asked for. A panel of the Maryland House of Delegates headed by Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore) has now taken up the issue and apparently plans to address the complained-of breed disparity by proposing to extend strict liability to all breeds of dog, abolishing the longstanding “one-bite” rule that shields owners from responsibility where a pet has not previously been known to cause trouble. Why is it somehow not surprising that in Annapolis the views of attorneys would hold more sway and those of dog-rescue folks less? [AP, Julie Scharper/Baltimore Sun, more background: Miller.
She’s asking $30 million over a client’s dog bite. Have her subjects informed her about New York’s abolition of ad damnum clauses? [Eric Turkewitz, earlier]
It’s presumably an intended effect of the recent court ruling that landlords will threaten families with eviction unless they stop keeping the dogs as pets, and that skittish insurers will hike rates on such households sharply or refuse to insure them entirely. But there is much uncertainty as to exactly which dogs count as “pit bulls”; will Maryland pet owners need to shell out for DNA testing, at $120 a pop? And is it also an intended effect of the ruling that unoffending, well-trained dogs end up being euthanized in droves? “Ohio recently repealed its statewide breed-specific legislation because it was ineffective and inequitable,” notes my Cato Institute colleague Nita Ghei. [Daily Caller, earlier]
Newcastle, England leaflet distributor (and former Labour Party council member) Mark Hunter is suing a dog owner whose Jack Russell terrier, the imaginatively named Jack, allegedly bit off the tip of the leafleteer’s finger as he pushed election paraphernalia through a front-door letterbox. While both Hunter and dog owner Mark Monroe seem to agree that part of Hunter’s bloody finger did indeed end up on the floor of Monroe’s home, it’s unclear how Jack could have bitten Monroe through the letterbox–which boasts a contraption known as a “letterbox guard”. Also unclear: why Monroe put Hunter’s finger in his freezer (keeping it for several months before ultimately tossing it in the rubbish), and why neither Hunter nor Monroe immediately reported the incident to police. Hunter is seeking about $25,000.
Though Monroe froze the finger, he was kind enough not to toss it in the chili. (“Labour campaigner’s ‘finger bitten off by dog’ as he pushed leaflet through letterbox”, The Daily Mail, Sept. 22).