Adjoining Senate Bill Introduced, SB 160

January 22, 2013

Today we sent a letter to all Maryland senators concerning the "compromise" legislation first introduced in the House (HB 78) and has now been filed in the Senate (SB 160). We wanted to share our letter with you; it describes in greater detail the reality of these two bills. Essentially, "rebuttable presumption" allows all dog owners after a biting incident to seek protection under the One Bite rule with minimal "rebuttal" evidence.

This is not advancement for Maryland dog bite victims. This legislation, in fact, is the opposite of what the high court signaled Maryland dog bite victims needed: strict liability extended to all dog breeds. We ask that you direct your letters to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (where the bill currently resides and where amendments can be made) and/or to all Maryland senators, who will eventually vote upon this legislation.

The related email addresses are provided at the bottom of this message.

The House hearing is next week, on January 30, and the Senate hearing is the following week, on February 5. We don't have much time to clarify the genuine meaning of "rebuttable presumption" to Maryland senators, so be sure to get your letter out soon!

Dear Maryland Senators,

      The legislation recently filed by Senator Frosh, SB 160 (cross-filed with HB 78), is neither fair nor just.
      My nonprofit organization,, is the foremost dog bite victims' advocacy group in the United States and participated in Tracey v. Solesky by supplying the amicus brief on behalf of the young dog mauling victim. The Court of Appeals agreed with our brief and modified Maryland common law by attaching strict liability when a pit bull attacks.

Why SB 160 is neither fair nor just.

      Prior to Tracey v. Solesky, all Maryland dog mauling victims had to prove the owner of the dog (or landlord in the instances of a tenant's dog) knew or should have known of the dangerous propensity of the dog in order to have a trial. This legal standard is known as the One Bite rule and places a high burden of proof upon the injured victim.
      While SB 160 allows a dog bite victim to have a trial under the "rebuttable presumption" standard, it does not alleviate the need for the victim to still prove the owner of the dog knew or should have known of the vicious propensity of the animal. Only a strict liability standard removes this high burden of proof.
      Last August, Pit Bull Task Force members drafted a strict liability bill (technically a "liability" bill) after input from affected parties. That bill was fair. It removed the high burden of proof by adopting strict liability for all dog breeds and protected landlords by returning them to the One Bite rule (April 1, 2012, previous to Tracey v. Solesky.)
      We urge Senate members to amend SB 160 by adopting strict liability.

How SB 160 will function in real life.

      If enacted, SB 160 would allow the dog mauling victim his or her day in court. But, it also allows the dog owner to rebut this legal presumption. SB 160 is silent on what proof the dog owner must establish, thus, it is assumed to be only the smallest amount of evidence. For instance, "Your honor, my dog has always been a loving, gentle dog. I don't know why it attacked a 10-year old boy."
      Once the owner of the dog introduces such minimal "rebuttal" evidence, the victim must still prove the dangerousness of the dog by showing previous acts that demonstrated the dog's viciousness. Without proof of these acts, the dog mauling victim still loses. There's very little difference between the One Bite rule and "rebuttable presumption."
      Said another way, "rebuttable presumption" allows all dog owners after a biting incident to seek protection under the One Bite rule with minimal "rebuttal" evidence.
      Improperly billed as a "compromise" bill by its sponsors, SB 160 only serves to compromise the rights of all future Maryland dog mauling victims. SB 160 in no way responds to the Court of Appeals decision that advanced the rights of pit bull mauling victims and signaled the necessity to extend strict liability to all dog breeds.

I've attached Senate Bill 2 filed during the 2012 Special Session.

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee,,,,,,,,,,

All Maryland Senators,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Copy the above block(s) of email addresses as is, commas included, and paste into the To: area of your email.

Thank you for your supportive actions!

Visit: Maryland Dog Bite Victim Advocacy