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Md.Lawmakers Form Pit Bull Task Force

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Maryland lawmakers will review the impact of a ruling by the state's highest court that concluded pit bulls are an inherently dangerous breed and consider legislation in response, the presiding officers of the Maryland General Assembly announced Wednesday.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch announced the members of a 10-member task force in a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"This decision will have profound effects on dogs, dog owners, property owners, tenants and landlords," Miller, D-Calvert, and Busch, D-Anne Arundel, wrote. "Therefore, we are appointing a Joint Task Force to study the court decision and make recommendations on possible legislation."

The ruling last month by the Court of Appeals, the state's highest, means that in a dog attack by a pit bull, plaintiffs seeking damages do not have to prove the animal's prior violent behavior for the owner to be held liable for damages.

The task force will review state law, the court's decision and laws in other states. The panel also will review the viability and definition of breed-specific standards in Maryland law, a dog owner or landlord's ability to secure property insurance and existing breed-specific prohibitions in local jurisdictions in Maryland.

"The work of the Joint Task Force should be confined to the specific impact of this decision and not broader issues of
animal-related legislation or preemption of existing local regulation on this matter," Busch and Miller wrote.

The task force will meet as soon as an agenda for the first hearing can be arranged, the letter said.

"We hope that this group will make consensus recommendations to provide some resolution and clarity to the issues raised by the decision in the near future," the presiding officers wrote.

The Humane Society of the United States launched a campaign this month seeking legislation to overturn the ruling. The group says Maryland is the only state that officially regards pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs as categorically dangerous.

The Court of Appeals ruling resulted from a case in Baltimore County that involved a 10-year-old boy who was attacked by a neighbor's pit bull in 2007.

Senators on the panel will include: Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore, Joseph Getty, R-Carroll, Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery and Norman Stone, D-Baltimore County. Delegates on the task force will be Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore, Eric Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, Benjamin Kramer, D-Montgomery, Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, and Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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