On April 26, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals (highest court in the state) delivered a finding that held a landlord liable for a 2007 incident in which his tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, escaped from a pen and mauled a child. The Court also declared that “a pit bull or any dog with pit bull ancestry shall be deemed hence forth vicious and inherently dangerous as a matter of law.”
The Court’s ruling is particulary chilling since now owners of dogs who appear to have “pit bull ancestry” may be forced to abandon or kill their dogs since it can be presumed that landlords will not accept the “strict liability” for allowing such dogs on their property.
The ruling is far-reaching since such liability may also extend to Animal Shelters, Veterinary Clinics, even grooming shops and boarding kennels. If you “know” that a certain canine is a pit bull or even looks like it might have a little bit of “pit” in his/her pedigree, then you could be held strictly liable if that animal bites someone and you are within the State of Maryland.
What does this ruling mean for Flyball in the State of Maryland? What happens if liability insurance underwriters specificly deny coverage for a flyball event if they allow bully breeds and pit bulls to compete? Liability insurance that specificly names NAFA as a “Co-insured” party is necessary for NAFA sanctioned events. It is a valid question not easily answered.
Flyball venues within the State of Maryland also have been handed a huge headache. Assuming that a flyball hosting club can still obtain the insurance necessary for sanctioning their event, Venues may decide that there is too much liability and deny use of their facilities if bullies and pitties are allowed as part of the Flyball Tournament. Loss of a venue is the most common reason for hosting clubs to stop hosting. It is unlikely that a hosting club would be able to go outside of Maryland if that is where they normally host a flyball event.
Other states are looking closely at the Maryland Court Ruling. I hope it is more along the lines of, “We should not do this in our state” than a “How can we do this in our state?”
I am not a lawyer and this ruling has many twists and turns. Groups that fight against BSL laws being passed in the legislatures were caught “off guard” since this ruling amounts to creating law from the bench. I am including several links for more information on this disturbing development in the State of Maryland.
As always, comments are welcome and encouraged!
Editor in Chief, Flyball Today