Assembly passes pit bull bill on third try

After two years of wrangling, the General Assembly gave its final approval Thursday to legislation that overrules a state high court ruling that pit bulls are inherently dangerous and must be held to a stricter liability standard for bites than other breeds.

By an overwhelming margin, the House sent a Senate-passed bill to Gov. Martin O'Malley that eliminates the distinction between breeds created by the Court of Appeals in 2012 in the case of a child who was nearly killed by a pit bull. The bill would create a uniform standard for all breeds, easing the burden of proof for dog bite victims to show that a pet owner should have known the animal was dangerous.

The legislation is the result of a compromise that eluded the House and Senate during a special session in 2012 and last year, when it died on the House floor in the final hours of the 90-day session.

Animal advocates said the court ruling, which exposed landlords to greater liability for their tenants who own pit bulls, has been prompting property owners to force renters out of their homes unless they got rid of their dogs.

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