Carroll County Times

Carroll dog owners cheer new law that does not single out dog breed

Some dog owners in Carroll County cheered the passage of a state law this week to eliminate stricter liability standards for pit bull owners.

The law, which has been sent to Gov. Martin O'Malley for signing, would overrule a 2012 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling, which deemed that pit bulls were "inherently dangerous." The new law would leave it up to a jury to determine whether an owner should have known if a dog was dangerous if it attacks someone.

Some Carroll residents said they were glad to see the law pass, and hoped that the governor would sign it. Some said, based on their observations, that pit bulls were not any more dangerous than other dogs, especially if they had been trained correctly.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pit bulls' ancestors were brought to the U.S. from England and their descendants were bulldogs. Although there is a history of pit bulls being used for dog fighting, the dogs were trained to live and interact with humans, the society says.

Sykesville resident Deejay Pressman, 33, said he thought the new law was preferable to singling out any one breed. Pressman said he has friends who have had a more difficult time finding a place to rent because they own a pit bull.

He said landlords have become more worried about liability issues brought on by the court's ruling.

Pressman also said his neighbors' pit bulls are very well behaved. In fact, he said, it was the smaller dogs that brought on a lot of problems. He related a story of his border collie, Cocoa, biting a worker who had jumped over a fence into his yard.

"I grew up with Rottweilers and they never bothered anybody," Pressman said. "It's these little dogs, like little border collies, Chihuahuas - they are the ones that bite people."

Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County, said all dogs can be dangerous in certain circumstances. She noted that in all her years as executive director of the humane society, the only death caused by a dog attack was committed by a coonhound.

"Basically, all dogs can bite," Ratliff said.

Ratliff said all dog owners should be held responsible for their dogs, regardless of breed.