Proposed Md. bills would make owners liable for vicious dogs

WASHINGTON – Two bills in Maryland take a different approach to the controversial matter of who is held responsible when a dog bites and injures someone.

Delegate Michael Smigiel Sr., R-Cecil, is bringing back a bill he introduced in August that holds owners liable if their dog bites someone while not on a leash, regardless of whether the dog had a history of aggressive behavior.

Smigiel tells The Gazette his bill provides the incentive some dog owners may need to keep their dogs leashed or make sure there are no holes in the yard fence.

An owner gets a pass if the person bit was trespassing or trying to hurt the dog.

Another bill from Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, and Delegate Luiz Simmons, D- Montgomery, carries an assumption that dog owners are aware of their pet’s vicious tendencies and in the event their pet attacks someone, the owner must prove they had no prior knowledge of their pet’s violent tendencies in order to escape liability.

Both bills are breed-neutral. Neither bill has been voted on.

This story has been modified.

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