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Legislature must protect victims of dog attacks [Letter]

7:30 AM EST, January 10, 2014

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Dog bites are tracked by the health department because they are injurious and can cause death. Dog bites and mauling by law are a public welfare concern that has nothing to with dog owners' rights and everything to do with dog owners' responsibilities. When a bite or mauling incident occurs, humans instinctively seek help from first responders and physicians, not humane groups and veterinary doctors.

The standards pertaining to dog bites are set forth by law in Maryland Health General Article 18-217. It is not the place of animal advocates to be the architects of public safety policy but rather to apply their vocation for animal welfare, to establish and guide dog owners on how best to meet their responsibilities as required by public safety officials.

Legislation needs to address the concerns raised in the previous legislative sessions within these following public health factors:

1. How will dog owners pay for catastrophic injuries caused by their dogs? Homeowners insurance is not required by law, it is required of homeowners by mortgage lenders. Renters can go uninsured.

2. The animal advocates say the largest portion of their shelter space is pit bulls and the greater share of their placement in foster homes are to renters. Any new law must consider the feasibility of a victim being able to gain a recovery.

3. Returning to common law with pit bulls and other dogs means a dog bite victim must prove negligence. The animal lobby says dog behavior is the dog owner's fault, so then a dog bite itself should be evidence of negligence. Like them or not, muzzles are always available to dog owners, or they can choose a less dangerous breed to mitigate the risk of bites.

That addressing these public safety factors affects dog owners who take the choice to own a dog or not is nothing more then their being accountable to a responsibility that is inherently their own and certainly not a dog bite victim's.

Irene Solesky, Towson

The writer is the mother of Dominic Solesky, a Towson boy who was attacked by a pit bull in 2007 and whose case led to a Court of Appeals decision that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

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