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Politics
WYPR's Senior News Analyst opines on recent Maryland news.

Smith: Successful session, but what about pit bulls?

All politics is still local.

Elected officials know that nothing illustrates the point more clearly than dogs. Barking dogs, dogs that want to “mark” your shrubbery, dogs that litter the sidewalk, biting dogs.

 

Pit Bulls. Even if you don’t own one, you’re probably interested in the issue.

 

They were on the Maryland General Assembly’s agenda this year. Was the Court of Appeals right when it ruled that they are inherently dangerous? If you have a pit bull you have a problem. If the dog bites someone, you’re liable. In addition, landlords are liable if a tenant’s pit bull bit someone on the landlord’s property.

 

Enter the assembly, suggesting that the law should be in a sense democratized – so that all dogs, not just pit bulls, are treated equally under the law. This was logical—and useful—because there are as many as 25 varieties of pit bull.

 

Lawyer members of the assembly in the House of Delegates and the Senate disagreed and squabbled. Political figures dissembled and delayed and blocked the bill on the last day of the session. Time ran out – for the bill’s proponents and, for pit bulls and their owners.

 

Not much of a setback for a session distinguished for big initiatives: End the death penalty in Maryland, raise the gas tax, more tightly controlled guns, harness the winds and build 50 new schools in Baltimore,

 

Impressive stuff. But the pit bull bill was important too. It addressed something that affects Marylanders intimately and immediately.

 

Not a big deal – unless you own a pit bull or your neighbor does or you think animals have rights too.

 

Your comments are invited at fsmith@wypr.org.