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Who let the dog owners down?

Justice SystemElections

We appreciate that 100 percent of Maryland legislators voted for a form of the dog bite legislation that would have eliminated breed discrimination, overturned the court ruling that declared pit bulls to be "inherently dangerous," and removed strict liability for landlords. We believe the majority of legislators did this because our testimony and advocacy efforts over the last year helped them understand what it takes to build a safe and humane community for people and their pets.

That's what makes it absolutely unacceptable that a compromise could not be found and no bill was passed ("Pit bull compromise fails, trial lawyers win," April 1). The legislature's lack of action will increase the burden on municipal, taxpayer funded animal shelters due to unwanted, abandoned and surrendered dogs.

Many of us have been working to overturn the court ruling since it was first announced last April. Lawmakers have been receiving thousands of our e-mails, letters and calls since the first special session of 2012. They have heard us testify at task force and Judiciary Committee meetings. They have seen us at our rallies on Lawyer's Mall and in their offices on Humane Lobby Day.

So imagine how thousands of us felt as we hung on to every word Monday night listening to the House floor proceedings online.

We heard the compromise bill that the conference committee arrived at that was passed unanimously in the Senate be ripped apart by delegates screaming at one another. The bill got moved later and later into the night, as we desperately engaged in debates with delegates on Facebook and frantically continued making calls, texting, and e-mailing.

Putting the interests of the insurance industry and trial lawyers ahead of their constituents is absolutely unacceptable. But the fact that our elected officials, who we voted into office to represent us in the law-making process, chose to make a mockery of us and thousands of dog-owning families' plights by playing "Who Let the Dogs Out?" followed by the sound of a bomb while in session on the House floor is morally reprehensible.

That song and all your laughter will ring in our ears as we vote in the next elections. Rest assured, you will not stop hearing from us until a breed-neutral bill that removes third party liability and is fair to all dog owners and bite victims is passed. After all, somebody has to have Maryland citizens' best interests at heart.

Pauline Houliaras

The writer represents the board of directors of B-More Dog, a non-profit group that advocates for responsible dog ownership in the Baltimore area.

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