Whole Dog Journal's Blog April 30, 2012

Tracey v. Solesky ; Society v. Pitbulls - Maryland, 4/26/12

Posted at 12:25PM - Comments: (23)

In an exceptionally ill-considered decision, on April 26, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals (highest court in the state) delivered a finding that not only held a landlord liable for a 2007 incident in which his tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, escaped from a pen and mauled a child, but also 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.”

While not banning pit bulls entirely (and not offering any answer to the question of how to conclusively determine if a dog actually is a pit bull or pit  bull mix), the ruling has massive significance for all “big-headed dogs” in the State of Maryland. Not just the dogs themselves, but also their owners, and any humans involved with them in any capacity. Shelters and rescue groups are scrambling for legal opinions and advice on how to deal with the pit-type dogs already in their custody, as well as any that may seek refuge in the future. Pet sitters, veterinarians, trainers, groomers, pet-assisted therapy programs and other pet care professionals, in addition to landlords and owners, now face a huge liability burden if they provide services to pit bulls – or anything even remotely suspected of being a pit bull. Insurance companies, already touchy about pits and other breeds regarded as risky, now have a solid legal reason to refuse to provide homeowners insurance to Maryland owners of pit or suspected pit-type dogs.

The fallout is likely to be significant. The court’s findings even went so far as to hold anyone responsible who “knew or should have known” that the dog was a pit bull or pit mix, and offered services anyway. Not that they can’t rent, or provide services, but if they do and the dog bites someone they can be held strictly liable. Landlords and insurances companies aren’t likely to risk that. Pet care professionals may be more willing to take the risk, but with the “should have known” language, won’t be able to pretend, as has often been done in the past, that the dog is just a “terrier mix.” It’s probable that a lot of Maryland’s pit bull and pit-type dogs will die, as renters are turned away, homeowners face threats of canceled insurance, “no-kill” shelters refuse to accept them and full-service shelters decide they cannot bear the liability risk and on the advice of their attorneys, reluctantly choose to euthanize.

As this was a court decision, not legislation, it slipped under the radar of every group that watches the legislative process to combat breed-specific location. Animal advocates are now scrabbling for a legislative fix to this disaster that would take precedence over this otherwise binding decision that threatens doom for thousands of well-loved dogs in Maryland. Meanwhile, until clearer heads prevail, owners of pit-type dogs, or dogs who might be identified as pit-type dogs, might do well to avoid visiting, or even traveling through, this Mid-Atlantic state.

Comments (18)

Some info has come about in the past year concerning this dog attack. The Soleskys were not entirely forthcoming and blame the prosecuter for not bringing it to light even though the Soleskys knew.

Sahlu: Dude what happened?
Dominic: I'll tell you when its just you and me.
Zachary: One day, on a bright sunny day in Towson, Dominic was walking down an alley way with his gay lover Scotty. They almost got to the end when Big Dom saw a pit bull. Dominic, being the genius that he is, decided that the only way to impress Scotty was to challenge the pit bull for his honor. So Dominic climbs the fence and later ends up in the hospital.
Dominic: Haha

Before this episode the boys had been throwing rocks and darts at the dogs. I'm just sad that the info did not surface before Ms. Tracey's death.

Posted by: notpcbutcorrect | November 1, 2015 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Pit Bulls as a whole have earned their bad rap. I know of one who was being fostered-- it killed the fosterer's dog. You can;t look at their massive heads and big mouths without realizing that they were bred to maul and kill. As one man told me "It kind be as sweet as it can be to you-- then it will go over and kill another animal and then come back to you wagging its tail with a big grin on its face, waiting for your approval"

Posted by: YTK | January 17, 2013 11:52 AM    Report this comment

What everyone needs to do is start writing to the Governor of the State. Specifically point to the decision and comment that any State that would allow such a biased Judge to make decisions isn't a State you want to visit. Then copy the letter and give it to 5 friends and have them send it and have each one make 5 copies for their friends to send, and so on and so on. You will be very surprised at how quickly this decision gets over turned.

Posted by: keller1312 | May 11, 2012 3:13 PM    Report this comment

Sorry folks but I have to disagree somewhat. While I do not blame the breed, the fact is that scumbags do seem to like pitbulls at much higher rate than other breeds. Until we can legislate who can and cannot have a dog, this problem will never be solved. The same can be said for becoming a parent.

Posted by: Robert M | May 6, 2012 6:56 AM    Report this comment

GOOD GOD!!! Where did this idiot on the bench get his information. It's hard to believe there are people like this who are in a position of power. Where did he get his law degree, Ma & Pa's Law School for Stupid People?

I am not a Pit Bull owner myself I prefer hounds but any breed can be made aggressive if you abuse neglect, or train it to be so. It has never been the dogs problem it has always been the owners. Unfortunately the dogs are the ones who have to pay the price.

Posted by: Squirtsie | May 2, 2012 9:43 AM    Report this comment

I am reading the actual ruling. I love this part: (page 9)

"...Perry vs Jones...Lord Kenyon held from the fact that the owner kept his dog tied and did not permit him to run at large, it must be presumed that he had knowledge that the dog was vicious, unruly and not safe to be permitted to go abroad..."

Wow, there's a failure of logic. I never expect my dog to attack anyone, but I never let him take himself for a walk. Maybe I thought if I didn't control his interactions, someone else would hurt him, or maybe he'd get run over by a car, or get attacked by a wild animal, or eat something poisonous, or fall off a broken tree and break a leg...All dangerous things to happen to my dog, none of which involve him attacking a human, or even another dog. So if the dog is let go, he must be okay to let go, and if the dog is injured or killed, the court doesn't care, but if I properly restrain my dog, I must know he is vicious and would hurt someone, so I have previous knowledge and am thus liable if only for that reason....what the hell?

Posted by: mfr1003 | May 1, 2012 7:52 PM    Report this comment

I am appalled. Canine Americans are innocent until they are proven guilty.
I certainly won't be traveling to or through Maryland, and I don't have a pit bull.

Posted by: pl | May 1, 2012 7:29 PM    Report this comment

I am absolutely shocked at the ignorance and discrimination of the Maryland Court of appeals. It seems they have slipped back to 1692 where now the pit bull breed is seemingly hunted and driven away rather than the Witches of Salem.

Posted by: KELLI B | May 1, 2012 3:45 PM    Report this comment

The 'aggressiveness' that people attribute to any of the Pit/Stafforshire Terrier's are the 'persistance' that is the make up of all terriers. Terriers are bred to not back down and to keep after their prey at all costs. The 'extra musculature' at the tail end of a Scotty is so that the hunter can pull the dog from the underground den of a badger...with the badger still in the dogs mouth!
On another note, as a child on the east coast, no one in the '50's had fences around their property. Children and dogs ran free together...most of those dogs were Stafforshire Terriers...a dog made popular by Buster Brown, RCA & Our Gang movies. I NEVER heard of any child or other dog being viciously attacked! We need to ask ourselves 'what has changed' since that period?

Posted by: SANDRA M | May 1, 2012 11:05 AM    Report this comment

The picture of this judge is very clear - he read about pit bull type dogs until he had all the negative information he wanted (such as the mythical jaw/bite power) and then he stopped looking for information. I'll be praying that some of the more experienced lawyers will now be offering advice on any appeal. So, I still cannot go into Denver with my Staffordshire Bull Terrier Service Dog and if we go to Maryland, then every place we go will be shaking in their boots wondering what liability they might have to assume (not to worry folks, my little girl was abused before I got her at a year old and she will not even defend herself. Before I totally understood that, an Irish Setter had bit through one ear and left a nasty scratch across her face. She freezes with fear when under attack from even a Chihuahua, but now she's catching on that it's safe behind Mom because Mom's fighting her battles for her and chasing off the meanies!) I've rescued and raised the various "pit bull" breeds for decades now and they are the biggest lap puppies with no interest in fighting, but tons of interest in belly rubs & cuddles. Best breed I've ever owned & became breed of my heart after my first one - loving, loyal, dedicated clowns who just want their 2-leggers to be happy. Ignorance has so jeopardized a wonderful breed who was the American hero dog and great American family dog during earlier times - it wasn't the dog who went bad!

Posted by: shaunaru | May 1, 2012 9:52 AM    Report this comment

When will they learn: there are no bad breeds, just bad dogs, just as there are no bad races, just bad people

Posted by: Dan H | May 1, 2012 9:40 AM    Report this comment

Moving out of Maryland won't help, read the court document posted below. They cite several states where laws, liabilities and SBL are in place. It is one thing to hold the pet owner culpable in the event their dog causes damage, it is another to hold anyone that deals with the owner of a "dangerous" dog accountable for allowing the dog to be on their premises. Landlords, veterinarians, pet store owners, shelters, trainers, groomers, etc., are now all at risk if they allow a "pit bull" on their property.

Posted by: E S | April 30, 2012 6:28 PM    Report this comment

This is discrimination and ignorance at it's worst. Time to move out of Maryland.

Posted by: Unknown | April 30, 2012 4:19 PM    Report this comment

Maybe Maryland voters, including me and my rescued pit bull should be held responsible for judges or anyone who looks like a judge. Obviuosly Maryland judges are a danger to society and must be voted off the bench! maybe my dog would like a toy in a black robe to chew on.

Posted by: Donna B | April 30, 2012 3:54 PM    Report this comment

Can someone please provide a copy of the official court verdict? This has the potential for cascading consequences - across breeds and states. Also assuming this decision will be appealed,please post who the participants are so that those who want to can contribute to get this overturned.

Posted by: E S | April 30, 2012 1:52 PM    Report this comment

yes, extremely sad. So many bad owners have pits, and enjoy making them "bad" dogs, while they are really loving, sweet dogs. This is a heartbreaking news. :(

Posted by: Debbie W | April 30, 2012 1:25 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for writing this. Boycotting Maryland is probably a good idea. Everyone should join the group Stop Maryland Pit Bull Discrimination on Facebook to show support and keep up to date on happenings.

Posted by: mtdenise | April 30, 2012 12:59 PM    Report this comment

This is such a very sad situation... All the way around... Where do we stop, what breeds will be affected? I am sorry it is the ownwers fault... The owners can make any breed nasty... We need to put muzzles on the owners.... Just my 2 cents worth...

Posted by: luvrpyrs | April 30, 2012 12:34 PM    Report this comment

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