Animal advocates seek new pit bull legislation in special session

A group of animal activists is asking Gov. Martin O'Malley to quickly introduce legislation that would override a Maryland Court of Appeals decision deeming all pit bulls dangerous.

Maryland Votes for Animals and similar organizations are urging residents to call the governor's office Tuesday to lobby him to act during the special General Assembly session scheduled to begin Monday.


"We feel this is terribly important," said Carolyn Kilborn, chair and founder of Maryland Votes for Animals. "It should be dealt with in the special session."

But response from the governor and the General Assembly was cool. O'Malley won't introduce such a bill at the budget-focused session, said spokeswoman Raquel Guillory, and the House won't take up the legislation then, either, said Alexandra M. Hughes, spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael E. Busch.


"We're only doing budget," Hughes said.

The speaker's office has been receiving emails on the pit bull issue, but constituents have not been seeking action before next year's regularly scheduled 90-day session, Hughes said.

Kilborn said her group has "gotten a lot of response" to the prospect of such legislation, though no draft has been written.

Kilborn's group and others oppose last month's Court of Appeals ruling, which no longer requires a victim of a pit bull attack to show that a dog's owner knew it had a history of being dangerous to make a claim in court; the victim must show only that the owner or landlord knew a dog was part pit bull.

Opponents of the ruling argue that it unfairly targets pit bull owners and the landlords who rent to them. They say legislation should be based on a dog's behavior, not the dog's breed.

The ruling, they fear, will discourage landlords from renting to pit bull owners and diminish chances that the dogs will be adopted because of liability concerns. They also argue the ruling will unfairly target other dog owners whose dogs are misidentified.

The court's decision resulted from an attack in 2007, when 10-year-old Dominic Solesky of Towson was mauled by a pit bull.

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.