Animal advocates criticize lack of action on pit bulls

Predict more euthanizations; await word on lawsuit

Earlier this week the General Assembly finished its session without acting on a bill that would have changed Maryland's so-called "pit bull" law.

Now animal advocates say that lack of action could lead to many more euthanizations of pit bulls -- or even families abandoning their pets on the street.

Last year the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that pit bulls are "inherently dangerous" -- and that landlords can be sued if a pit bull owned by one of their tenants bites someone.

The State Senate and the House of Delegates passed different versions of a bill that would have removed liability from landlords, and extended some form of liability to owners of all dog breeds.

Efforts to reconcile the bills failed and the legislative session ended -- leaving the current law in place.

"We are anticipating that a lot of the landlords are going to force their tenants to either move or go get rid of their pets," said Jen Brause, the executive director of the BARCS animal shelter in South Baltimore.  "Everything kind of got put on hold and landlords were waiting to see what was going to happen this session. So now that we know the results, we're very concerned."

And now she's worried that renters with pit bulls might not even bother coming to the shelter to drop them off -- and let them go somewhere else.

"I think that most people recognize the shelters are full, and when they hear there's a chance that a dog could be euthanized they don't want to see that happen so a lot of proper think just letting them go is their best option," Brause said.

Now a lawsuit brought by three people who live in the Armistead Gardens development off Pulaski Highway in Southeast Baltimore could be the only way to overturn the pit bull law.

Their attorney has asked a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the housing development, to stop the tenants from being evicted or forced to get rid of their pit bulls.

"They're very anxious, they're scared that they're either going to have to move out of their homes or have to give up their animals, which many of them consider a part of their family," said the attorney, Charles Edwards.

Edwards also called on the federal judge to prevent any part of the law from being enforced.  He believes the pit bull law is unconstitutional because, among other reasons, he says it does not specify exactly what a pit bull is.

"I think that they probably thought the legislature would resolve this," he said.

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