Landlords can't be responsible for tenants' dogs

Commentator Kevin A. Dunne misses the point regarding liability for pit bulls ("Proposed bill would offer no meaningful recourse for many victims of dog attacks," Aug. 9). It is wrong and misguided to make landlords and their insurers financial "backstops" for tragedies resulting from a tenant or any other household member's failure to control a dog.

The responsibility for control of any dog lies with its owner. A landlord cannot step in to control a tenant's dog any more than he can control the behavior of a tenant's child or guest.

However, when a landlord knows that a tenant's dog is misbehaving on his property, he can demand the tenant control or remove the animal.

Clarifying in a lease that the tenant is responsible for the persons and possessions in his rented home did not, until the Solesky case, make the landlord responsible for their misbehavior. Nor did a landlord's knowledge of a dog's breed, until the Solesky case, provide him with knowledge of its bad behavior.

As Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, "hard cases make bad law … because [that] which appeals to the feelings distorts … judgment."

The Maryland legislature must act now to reverse this unprecedented decision, which adversely affects Maryland's human residents.

Katherine Kelly Howard

The writer is general counsel for Regional Management Inc. and legislative committee chair of the Maryland MultiHousing Association.

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