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Maryland Enacts “Breed-Neutral” Dog Liability Laws

Dog Liability Laws

For the past two years, Maryland rental housing providers, including the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metro Washington (AOBA), have worked with dog advocates to change the rules in assigning proper liability in a pit bull attack. In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals handed down a decision in Tracey v. Solesky, declaring pure-bred pit bulls an inherently dangerous breed and imposing strict liability on both dog owners and rental housing provider for any damages the animals caused.

To address both public safety and business concerns, state legislators recently passed two bills that seek to establish rational, breed-neutral standards for dog liability. The bills will restore rental housing owners to the pre-Solesky common law standard of liability for injuries or death caused by a dog, “regardless of breed of heritage.”

Under S.B. 247 and H.B. 73, the law will presume that a dog owner knew or should have known of the dangerous propensities of their dog. Also, the dog owner will be legally responsible for the damages and loss caused by their pet regardless of fault, with certain exceptions including cases of criminal trespassing or intentionally provoking the dog. Liability will be imposed on rental housing owners if it can be proven that they had knowledge of the dog’s presence on the leased premises, knowledge of its violent tendencies, and maintained control over the leased premises. Both bills became law immediately upon enactment.

The Solesky case originated from a 2007 dog attack on a child in Towson, Md.

Apartment and Office Building Association of Metro Washington, Maryland General Assembly