Fur flies as pit bull compromise fails in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A bill designed to take the tag of “inherently dangerous” from around the neck of pit bulls in Maryland failed to make it off the House floor, but it didn’t go quietly.

Last year, Maryland’s highest court ruled that owners of pit bulls are legally responsible for dog attacks.

Tami Santelli, director for Maryland State’s Humane Society of the United States, said the bill that failed was a good compromise and would have made all dog owners liable for the bites their dogs inflict.

More than 30 states currently have some version of the strict liability law.

“Most dog owners in those states live in those states happily ever after and they never have an issue with it,” said Santelli.

Lawmakers debated the bill for about a half hour before it was tabled.

The debate turned heated when opponent Delegate Ben Kramer questioned proponent Delegate Kathleen Dumais about how many other states have such laws.

“When you say that there are 32 other states that have strict liability that would be somewhat of a misrepresentation in that… ” Kramer began before being cut off by Dumais.

“Absolutely not! And I take complete offense at your suggestion!” Dumais yelled back as Kramer continued to try to speak.

But her outrage wasn’t enough to reverse any decisions. Concerns that every nip at an ankle could turn into what some lawmakers called “1-800-Dog-Bite” killed the bill with minutes to go before the end of the legislative session.

The strict liability law would have come into play only if the person bitten was a child aged 12 years or younger.

“I think they’re really just trying to look out to protect the kids who are really the most vulnerable people when you think about dog bites,” says Santelli.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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