National Pet Industry Association Supports Repeal of Tracey v. Solesky
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) urges Maryland Legislature to Refrain from
Breed Specific Legislation
Washington, D.C./Annapolis, MD -- the Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest court in the state), delivered a finding which made a landlord liable for a 2007 incident in which his tenant’s dog, an American Pit Bull Terrier, escaped from a pen and mauled a child. In addition to this ruling, the court declared that “a pit bull or any dog with pit bull ancestry shall be deemed hence forth vicious and inherently dangerous as a matter of law.”
The Tracey vs. Solesky ruling from the bench allows for dog bite victims to litigate specifically against dog owners – and their landlords (where applicable)—based solely on the presumption of the dog’s physical characteristics. Sufficient basis for a claim, is knowledge on the part of the owner or landlord that the dog is all, or part, pit bull, even if no history of aggressive behavior exists. This new ruling allows for the assumption that pit bulls (or pit bull mixes) are, simply, engineered to be more dangerous than other dogs. Since this ruling, landlords have been compelled to evict tenants who ‘may’ own a dog that displays physical characteristics of pit bull type dogs.
PIJAC has been involved in the establishment of dangerous dog statutes in various states, sometimes resulting in the imposition of liability on neglectful dog owners. In all cases, the legislation in question focused on behavior rather than status: the only reliable method for determining whether a particular animal is a threat to public safety.
“As any behavioral expert recognizes, the breed of a dog does not dictate its disposition,” says Mike Canning, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). “Rather, training and care of the animal is what will determine its tendency towards aggressiveness.”
“Determining that pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are ‘inherently dangerous’ is irrational public policy,” says Canning. “Imposing strict liability for human attacks by dogs specifically based on breed is contrary to the goal of public safety.”
PIJAC believes that any law imposing restrictions on specific breeds of dogs ignores the reality that a dog may be vicious regardless of breed, and effective protection of public safety demands a focus on the individual animals that represent a true propensity to be a public threat.
The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. (ATTS), a national not-for-profit organization that provides a uniform national program of temperament testing of purebred and spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs determined, in its February 19, 2012 report, that out of 839 American Pit Bull Terriers tested, they demonstrated an 86.8% pass rate – a temperament rating marginally better than other dogs and certainly better than other breeds commonly accepted as companion animals. (http://atts.org/breed-statistics/statistics-page1/).
Delegate Nicholaus R. Kipke, (R-District 31) is pleased this issue has garnered national attention with PIJAC and said “Breed specific legislation is like using a flame thrower to light a candle. It does more damage than good. What we need are stricter laws for criminals who treat animals poorly, especially the vile characters who torture them."
The reality is that many breeds of dogs have been effectively trained to be aggressive. PIJAC supports pending legislation that would dispense with the erroneous decision in Tracey and urges the Task Force to consider any legislation based on a specific breed to be misguided.
Various dog breeds have been targeted over the years as vicious or dangerous animals. So-called “pit bulls” (which are not actually a recognized breed at all) are simply the favorite target of the day. Prohibiting possession of these animals will deprive pet owners of loving animals, cause unnecessary family evictions, result in certain euthanasia by over-crowed shelters from surrendered pets and do nothing but create a fertile environment for a black market that will use these breeds in fighting rings. It will not result in a higher level of public safety.