Dear Governor O'Malley,
Since the General Assembly failed the citizens of Maryland in the special session by not successfully addressing the "Solesky" appeals court ruling that places a higher level of liability on the owners of "pit bull type dogs", and holds a landlord legally accountable for a tenant's negligence, we are requesting that you use your executive privilege to grant some relief to the dog owners of Maryland from the damage caused by this irresponsible and poorly-considered court ruling.
There is no scientific data, nor is there any study, that can definitively identify any breed of dog as "inherently dangerous". A CDC/American Veterinary Medical Association report on dog aggression summarized, "neither pit bull-type dogs nor Rottweilers can be said to be more 'dangerous' than any other breed based on the contents of this report." Additionally, Maryland has had no dog bite-related human fatalities in over six years, and there have only been 12 recorded dog bite-related fatalities in Maryland over a period of the previous 47 years.
In the same period of time (1965-2012), 16 different breeds of dogs have been involved in serious, but non-fatal, human injuries in Maryland. However, "pit bull type dogs" are not the predominate breed in this statistic, and the incidents are equally spread over these 16 different breeds. Fatal, or serious but non-life threatening dog bite-related injuries are a rarity in Maryland, and no single breed can be singled out in this statistic. The appeals court ruling that any breed of dog is "inherently dangerous" CANNOT be confirmed by actual statistics or studies performed by any respected veterinary or animal advocacy organization. On the contrary, this designation is actually at odds with published statistics and studies.
Ownership of "pit bull type dogs" has increased in Maryland over the past 10 years. Part of this is due to the subjectivity in the identification of "pit bull type dogs". "Pit bull" is currently used as descriptive for more than 10 different breeds and mixes that include most mixed breed, short-haired dogs over 40 pounds. A Toledo, Ohio DNA study demonstrated that 50% of dogs identified as "pit bull" by dog wardens and shelter workers are, in actuality, mixed breed dogs that range from American Bulldog, to Welsh Corgi, to Labrador Retriever, to Bullmastiff. The varieties of mixed dog breeds that comprise "pit bull" cannot be quantified, and most dogs identified as "pit bull" have no common breed DNA markers. How can there be "inherency" (as the court ruled) with no ancestral commonality? The designation of "inherently dangerous" to a breed that does not officially exist, and is unofficially subjective in its application, is not only illogical but is scientifically and legally untenable.
The court's amendment to exclude mixed breed "pit bull type dogs" only muddied the waters. There is no such thing as a "full-breed pit bull". Additionally, the most common "full-breed" dogs associated with "pit bull" — American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier (the latter of which is not recognized by the American Kennel Club) — have no history of aggression, and no registered dog with the AKC or the UKC has been involved in any officially documented aggression statistics. However, there is not enough clarification by these judges to even determine if they are focusing on these breeds in their amended ruling, and if so, what logical reason they would have to focus on a VERY small minority of registered, "full-breed" dogs that have absolutely no history of aggression incidents.
Despite (or as a result of) the ambiguity and the lack of any discernible logic based on statistics or scientific study, the "Solesky" ruling has had a chaotic and detrimental effect on the citizens of Maryland, especially dog owners who rent apartments or homes. Maryland citizens who own dogs and rent their homes are being evicted by paranoid landlords. Maryland shelters are becoming overrun with dogs, and do not have the resources to deal with this influx. The result of this is that many family pets who have had no history of aggression are being euthanized for no reason. This is causing a considerable amount of distress, and some Marylanders are having to make the choice between homelessness or putting their family pet "to sleep". This choice is a barbaric and heartless decision to impose on innocent citizens, whose only "crime" was adopting a dog from one of Maryland's many shelters, and giving that dog a good and loving home — something that most state and local governments encourage rather than punish. It is shameful that neither the legislative nor executive branches of Maryland government have addressed this Draconian court decision, when so many citizens are suffering as result of it, and the court ruling itself accomplishes no public good, is not based on any logic, reasoning, or statistics, and is too ambiguous to have any effect other than hysteria and paranoia.
Governor O'Malley, you can issue an executive order to stop this insanity, and to provide relief to Maryland citizens. Something MUST BE DONE. THOUSANDS of good Maryland citizens have received notices that they must relinquish their dogs or face eviction. There is not enough housing in Maryland to absorb these people, and with the mass hysteria that this court ruling has caused among landlords, fewer are renting to new tenants with dogs of any breed. The only choice left is to either move out of state, or euthanize their dog. How can a fair and just government place such a burden on good, law-abiding citizens for no justifiable reason? How can your office allow this to continue when you can easily place a moratorium on this ruling until the General Assembly can address it legislatively in January. This action will cost the state nothing financially, whereas allowing this decision to stand unaddressed will cost thousands in court costs and animal control costs.
This situation is a CRISIS that is affecting as many people as were affected by the emergency storms and power outages for which you have issued executive orders in the past. This court ruling is no less of an emergency for tens of thousands of Maryland citizens who are being displaced from their homes at no less a rate than any natural disaster that has befallen our state.
Please come to the aid of the citizens who need you. Please restore the balance of power in our democracy, and issue an executive order to halt this court ruling, at least until our General Assembly reconvenes and can legislatively address a fair solution.
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