Animal advocates say dog owners have nothing to fear

Liability may be lifted from landlords

BALTIMORE - It's supposedly the vicious breed, yet one pit bull we spotted didn't look nearly as threatening as a pack of frolicking canines at the Canton Dog Park.

"I do think that dog owners should be responsible for their own dogs and they probably have an idea if their dog could have a problem," said Dianna Curley, as her beagle mix "Clementine" bounced off of the nearby fence agitated by a passing mail carrier.

Lawmakers in Annapolis have come up with at least half a dozen versions of a bill to make the owners of all breeds responsible for their dogs, but does one size really fit all?

"I think it's confusing for a lot of dog owners," said Julie Hester with her lab mix "Darwin" in tow, "just the idea of what's at risk and what your dog is liable for immediately without any consideration."

At the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter or BARCS, Executive Director Jen Brause says ultimately it's the dog owners, regardless of the breed, that should be liable for them and all of the proposed bills address that.

"These bills are saying let's remove the landlord as being liable and lets just make the owner of the pet the only one liable and that's what we agree with.  Don't hold the landlord liable.  They're not the ones there watching that dog and then it should be all dogs.  It's not just pit bulls."

Whether a dog has a previous history of biting or not, it appears if its owner cares for it properly, restraining it with a leash and training it when needed, they should not have anything to worry about under any of the proposals.

BARCS here in Baltimore took in 20 pit bulls after the court ruling that made landlords responsible for them.

In the last two months, the Maryland Insurance Administration reports four dog-related complaints in the state and three of them were to drop homeowners policies.

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