The General Assembly looked ready to find some non-breed-specific legislation that would make all dog owners more liable for bites by rewriting what is essentially a “one-free-bite” policy, putting a greater responsibility on owners to prove that the animal gave no prior indications of being dangerous. But that broke down last week after Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons decided that a certain amendment added to the Senate version of the bill would increased owner liability a bit too far.
While politicians were trying and failing to arrive at a legislative solution to the Court of Appeals’ discriminatory ruling that pronounced pit bulls (and only pit bulls) “inherently dangerous,” we were given an awful reminder of the underlying issue Sunday when a 20-month-old girl in Dundalk was bitten in the face by a pit bull — causing an injury that required several stitches, an overnight stay in the hospital, and surely, plenty of psychic trauma. (As of Sunday night the girl was in “stable” condition, by the way.)
Now, in this case, the bite occurred in the girl’s home, not out in public. So there might not a piece of legislation — short of a ban on large dogs — that could have prevented an event quite like this, but we should remember the ultimate goal here: fewer dog bites.
A breed-specific policy is no solution, and the General Assembly is right to overturn it. But it would be great if it didn’t have to take six months (and counting) to address it, before we can move on to the task of keeping the citizenry safe.