Are we as a society being ‘fair’ to pit bulls?

Maryland’s Court of Appeals recently ruled that pit bulls and pit bull mixes are “inherently dangerous.” The decision stems from a case involving a pit bull named Clifford that escaped from its pen twice, severely injuring two children on the same day. Plaintiffs sued the dog’s owner and the landlord. Maryland’s Court of Appeals ruling means that dog owners — and their landlords — are responsible for any injuries caused by pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Pit bull owners, rescue groups and nonprofit organizations have criticized the ruling, which places breed-specific legislation back in the spotlight.

Last December, a retired police officer Jim Sak and his pit bull service dog made headlines by challenging a breed ban in Aurelia, Iowa. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, any breed can work as a service dog. The U.S. District Court in Sioux City granted a temporary injunction, reuniting Snickers and Sak, who credits his pit bull with detecting early signs of cancer. In July, Sak and Snickers will argue their case before a jury. In the meantime, Maryland pit bull owners — and their landlords — face tough choices. The Baltimore Sun reports of early fallout from the ruling, including landlords threatening pit bull owners with eviction. HSUS has responded with advice to renters who own pit bulls, along with links to pet-friendly rental properties on its website.

The American Society for the Prevention Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) opposes Maryland’s ruling. Its newly established legal advocacy department will target civil and criminal cases that could substantially impact animal welfare, providing support to attorneys and drafting bills for its government relations department, which will monitor legislation based on the recent court ruling.