Are Pit Bulls Dangerous by Nature? Court Says Yes

The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that owners of pit bulls are liable for damages caused by attacks by the breed.

If your pit bull attacks someone, don't expect much sympathy in court. An opinion recently released by the Maryland Court of Appeals states that you should have already known the breed was dangerous.

Maryland owners are now facing increased liability in attack cases, following a ruling in Tracey v. Solesky. The case involved a pit bull named Clifford that attacked a minor, causing life-threatening injuries. 

"When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous," wrote Judge Dale R. Cathell in the opinion.

Cathell also stated that landlords have the right to prohibit pit bulls or pit bull cross-breeds from their property.

A PDF of the opinion is attached in the media gallery.

The opinion cited a series of cases involving vicious attacks by pit bulls, as well as expert evaluations and national statistics, according to a WBAL TV News report

Aileen Gabbey, executive director of the Maryland SPCA, claimed the ruling could lead to fewer adoptions of pit bulls, ABC 2 News reported.

In February, a Howard County police officer shot and killed 8-year-old Yayo, a pit bull that ran toward an officer outside the dog's home in North Laurel, reported the Howard County Times, which said Howard County police can shoot a dog "if doing so will prevent the officer or another person from substantial harm."

In the past three years, the Howard County Police Department has reportedly shot, in addition to Yayo, an Autralian cattle dog in Elkridge and a lab mix in Columbia.


Is it fair for the court to designate pit bulls as inherently dangerous? How accountable should dog owners be held in attack cases? Tell us in the comments.

Gina April 30, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Brandie I am so torn on this topic. I once owned a pit bull named Jesabelle and she was the sweetest dog ever! The apt complex we lived in switched to a no bully dog rule so we gave her to one of our friends that still has her today and have 3 kids that were all born (and still have all their limbs) after they took her, still to this day she is the sweetest dog ever! We now have our own house and adopted an American Bull Dog they look very similar and we get the same cold shoulder that Pitt owners get cause they think she's a Pitt. When you get a chance good "history of the american pittbull terrier" they have played a big role in our history specially in WWI. When I was growing up it was german sheppards and Dobi's that were the vicious dog, now it's pitts and it's a shame cause pitts that are well taken care of and loved by responsible owners are no different then any other breed.
K April 30, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Because pitbulls are vicious monsters that are specifically bread to kill. They can and will attack without provocation and once they lock on to their victim, whether it be a child or another dog, they will not release until they kill. It is the nature of the dog which has been increased through selective breeding by those fighting the dogs like Vick, and drug dealers and thugs protecting themselves. Watch these videos. How would you feel if this was your dog or even worse, your child or family member? I live next door to one of these monsters and have seen the attacks in person. Truly horrifying!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O5cW2cVnSE http://www.truecrimereport.com/2009/11/caught_on_tape_a_pit_bull_atta.php http://topics.myfoxboston.com/m/22093265/video-pit-bull-attack-caught-on-tape.htm http://www.videosurf.com/video/pitbull-fight-caught-on-tape-graphic-143681257 http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/caught-on-tape-pit-bull-attacks-horse-12461210
Kat C April 30, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I'm on the side of nurture. Usually when pits are involved in an attack, you can often tell straight away why when you see the owners. Abusive, neglectful, don't socialize or train their dogs, don't spay or neuter their dogs, etc. I'm not a dog owner myself, but have several friends with pits or pit mixes, all of which are sweet dogs. The most violent thing about them are their whip-like tails when they are wagging. You should always be wary when approaching a strange dog. You should always try to find out as much as possible about a shelter dog's background and any history of abuse or aggression when adopting. You should always know how to control your dog.
Jessica W April 30, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I in away disagree that pit bulls or pit bull mix are dangerous. I believe it's how they are trained. I have a pit bull/lab mix. She is the most loving, caring and sweetest dog ever. When anyone comes over she is always greeting them with love. The only thing dangerous about her is when she gets so exited her tail is like a whip and will sting. She is amazing with kids, elderly and disabled people. I have a 3 year old nephew and when she sees him she will lick him to death and allow him to climb on her. My uncle who is handicap due to being hit by a car...he was taking her outside on her leash and she walked slow for him unlike with me when she draggs me because she is going for a walk. She is just amazing. I am not saying that if someone was to come to my house and try to harm me that she won't attack but hey isnt that all dogs? My cousin had 2 pit pulls (sadly they died of old age) that where just like mine. Sweetest dogs ever!! What about that story a few months ago about that stray pit that saved that women and kid from being attack? Makes me mad hearing people always bad talk pits! ANY dog can be dangerous...it's how they are trained!!!!
Carolyn Lathrop May 01, 2012 at 10:11 AM
KatC, When you say "I'm on the side of nurture," sorry, but you don't get to pick "sides" in the nature versus nurture debate. Dogs (like all the rest of us) are products of both nature AND nurture, and you ignore well over a century of pit bull breeding specifically to create a dog who will attack without provocation and keep up the attack until his victim is dead (pit bull breeders call this quality "gameness" and many value it above all other traits) at your own risk. There is a reason that pit bulls kill far, far more people in this country than any other kind of dog. For people who think that that reason is that pit bull owners are so horrible (and, in truth, many are) and caused otherwise sweet dogs to become killers, exactly who do you think is BREEDING pit bulls? It is overwhelmingly these same grossly irresponsible people, who are often breeding for the traits that create a disproportionately dangerous dog that attacks without warning and keeps up the attack until somebody (often another dog or a cat, but too often a child or an old person) is dead.
Carolyn Lathrop May 01, 2012 at 10:21 AM
But in any case, all this debate about pit bull nature is kind of irrelevant in Maryland now because it is now the law that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. This will result in literally thousands of pit bulls being dumped at shelters (who will not be able to adopt them out) because landlords will read Tracey v. Solesky and tell pit bull owners that they have to choose between keeping their pit bull and keeping their housing. Since there will be noplace else (unless they want to move out of state, which is the option I recommend) for pit bull owners to go, many will dump their dogs in shelters that are already glutted with unwanted, doomed pit bulls. Regardless of where you stand on whether the Court of Appeals was right or not, can we agree that NO pit bull in Maryland should be bred because of the current situation? Can we agree to all lobby for laws requiring the mandatory, breed specific spay/neuter of pit bulls (with the possible exception of AKC and UKC-PR registered show dogs) ? If not, is it okay with all you "pit bull lovers" that thousands and thousands of pit bulls will continue to suffer and die because of your support of the rights of grossly irresponsible pit bull breeders? .
Bob Cronk May 01, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Let us do a little math on the subject. 172 million dogs in the United States. Pit bulls are a type of dog not a breed and there are over 20 breeds called a pit bull. So lets say pit bull type dogs make up 5 per cent of the k-9 population. That gives 6.6 million pit bull type dogs in the US. There are 23 dog relalted deaths per year.. which the news papers indicated two thirds are killed by pit bulls. That gives 16 fatalaties by pit bulls per year. Now divide 16 by 6.6 million. Gee my calculator wont even display that small of number !
Bob Cronk May 01, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Let us do a little math on the subject. 172 million dogs in the United States. Pit bulls are a type of dog not a breed and there are over 20 breeds called a pit bull. So lets say pit bull type dogs make up 5 per cent of the k-9 population. That gives 6.6 million pit bull type dogs in the US. There are 23 dog relalted deaths per year.. which the news papers indicated two thirds are killed by pit bulls. That gives 16 fatalaties by pit bulls per year. Now divide 16 by 6.6 million. Gee my calculator wont even display that small of number !
Carolyn Lathrop May 02, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Bob Cronk implies that we shouldn't care about pit bulls mauling and killing people because actual deaths by pit bull maulings are relatively rare. Yet if we can easily prevent ONE child from dying by passing a breed specific law that also massively HELPS pit bulls (mandatory spay/neuter of all pit bulls and pit bull mixes except AKC and UKC-PR registered show dogs) when pit bulls are suffering and dying in huge numbers all over this country because of irresponsible breeding, why wouldn't we do it? Yet Bob Cronk is adamantly OPPOSED to such a law (he hasn't addressed this proposal here, directly, because he knows he doesn't have any good reason to oppose it that doesn't reveal his true agenda of protecting irresponsible pit bull breeders). By the way, I would bet that if you asked most people if we should flat out kill every pit bull in this country if doing so could save a single child's life, they would likely say "yes." Luckily that isn't necessary. The law I propose is good for both children AND pit bulls and (in places other than Maryland, where it is already too late for pit bulls and pit bull owners) could make further court cases like Tracey v. Solesky unnecessary.
Bob Cronk May 02, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Actually I do not support breeding of pit bulls or any other breed as far as that is concerned. Shelters are actually swamped with all sorts of breeds and types of dogs. We were the distribution shelter for over 100 dogs that came from Georgia just last month. Mostly hounds and beagles. What I am opposed to is the vilification of a certain type of dog just based on appearance. I have read your proposal a number of times sometimes under the name of Dogcentric. By indicating how "bad" a dog a pit bull type dog is you are actually encouraging the likes of Chris Brown and many low life backyard breeders. The same attitude makes it difficult to adopt pit bull type dogs from shetlers. Also how are you going to enforce such an insane law. Most people do not even license their dogs. If leash laws were enforced almost all dog bites and fatalties could be eliminated or reduced greatly. All this ruling does is put more pit bull type dogs in shelters and it difficult to own a pit bull type dog if you are a responsible owner. I think you should go to a shelter and watch dogs being put to sleep just because they look a certain way.
Nonlinear May 02, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I think the court is saying, they are dangerous after the attack. Its's more about liability than the dogs. In other words, the owners are considered liable no matter what the cause of an attack might be. Sounds like a croc to me. Of course I've never had a pit bulls mouth where my hand used to be.
Nonlinear May 02, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Everything is always about children for some reason. Adults, other dogs and cats are attacked and occasionally a child. Liability will not prevent attacks. This law will not change that, it will just make owners liable,and I do not think owners will abandon the dogs because of the law. "my dog would never bite anyone". People commenting here, have already said things to this effect. Good law for the entrepreneur that wants to start a pit bull insurance company.
Gina May 02, 2012 at 01:25 PM
There are so many more likely things that a child will die from in a year the the bite of a pit bull. This law (like gun laws) will only hurt the law obiding owners of Pitt Bulls. It will not effect anyone that breeds them for fighting. Most responsible owners don't breed their dogs, they are fixed and kept on leashes. And this is just an example of how obsurd the statistics are on Pitt Bull deaths. Last year there were 22 deaths in the US from Pitt Bulls 15 were on people between the ages of 32 & 76 and only 7 were from age 5yrs and younger. Sure you say "if it saves 1 child then that enough" on average in the US over 200 children a year are killed by their Mother, that being said who posses a bigger risk to a child????
Bob Cronk May 02, 2012 at 01:40 PM
By the way the last two fatal dog maulings: one in South Carolina by a lab mix and the other in Henderson, NV done by a mastiff mix. Would you say kill all these types of dogs just to save one child ? Or maybe we should just kill all dogs to save on child. Or maybe you just should admit you hate pit bull type dogs and are quite frankly a bigot
Bob Cronk May 02, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Using Carolyn Lathrop logic... lets ban motherhood
Gina May 02, 2012 at 02:08 PM
exactly Bob!
Nonlinear May 02, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Women should own a pit, before becoming a mother. The dog will be more loyal than a child, and never, ever asks, Why? ;-)
Maureen of Maryland Hypnosis May 02, 2012 at 07:28 PM
There are some great facts presented in these comments: Bob did the numbers research. Gina presented the logic. GO back and re-read what Jessica wrote. However, the opinions from "K" are shocking bc anyone who still believes the aggressive behavior is mostly inherent / totally genetic predisposition is way off base. It is bad PEOPLE who are monsters. And the evil people who cause some dogs to be overly aggressive. Whether through pure stupidity (such as tying a dog up) or intentional (fighting them) substandard PEOPLE are always the problem. Bad people cause the crimes. They use dogs as their weapons. The all-American dog types known as Pit-Bulls are being used. Our entire society will suffer, now that the court here in MD has decided something that few professionals in the animal behavior field believe.
Carolyn Lathrop May 02, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Maureen, Gosh, if dog behavior has no genetic basis why is it that EVERY winner of a sheepdog trial in this country is predictably going to be a border collie from strong herding lines? Why not a borzoi or a pit bull? Why aren't any bloodhounds winning field trials? Given the overwhelming preponderance of pit bulls in fatal dog attacks in this country, I guess your argument is that pit bull owners are just a bunch of scumbags, compared to the owners of other breeds, right? (There is certainly some truth to that--pit bulls do tend to be owned by less responsible owners than other breeds). But just who do you think is BREEDING pit bulls? Isn't it the same people who you would argue want a dangerous dog? Are you really so silly as to think that genetics don't matter when it comes to dog behavior? If so, I invite you to take a foxhound or an english setter and try to train it to compete successfully in sheepdog trials. Pit bulls have been bred in this country for over a century by horrible people who value a dog for a propensity to attack without provocation and for a tendency to keep up the attack until the victim is dead. Pretending this doesn't matter when it comes to pit bull temperament is complete wishful thinking. Sorry.
Carolyn Lathrop May 03, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Bob Cronk says that I would argue to "ban motherhood" because some mothers kill children. Uh, sorry, Bob, but you need to go back to reading 101 and logic 101. First, I am not arguing for "banning" anything. I am arguing for breed specific mandatory spay/neuter of all pit bulls and pit bull mixes except AKC and UKC-PR registered show dogs. This will help both pit bulls AND prevent deaths (both of children and other people, and, of course, of other pets since "most" pit bulls are dog aggressive according to the UKC American Pit bull Terrier standard) And it won't hurt even a single responsible pit bull owner. If I could think of a way to prevent child abuse by parents while at the same time helping parents and not hurting responsible parents, I'd sure be for that, too. Wouldn't you? But you have consistently argued AGAINST mandatory breed specific spay/neuter of pit bulls except for AKC and UKC-PR registered show dogs , haven't you? Well...congratulations. We didn't get the law I proposed that helps pit bulls and helps responsible pit bull owners. Instead the Court of Appeals responded to the pit bull crisis by making a ruling that is going to hurt thousands of pit bulls and pit bull owners, without discriminating between responsible and irresponsible owners. Good work, Bob. Pit bull
Jason Keyes May 03, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Why limit the spay/neuter requirement to specific breeds? That needs to happen with all dogs (and cats).
Jason Keyes May 04, 2012 at 01:59 AM
It hasn't been "over a century." It's been less than 30 years that Pits became something of a status symbol with a less-responsible element of people. Up through the '70s, Pits were family dogs. They still make great family dogs. You do have to pay attention to the breeding, however, just like with any other dog. They are a large-breed dog, and like other such dogs they are powerful animals.
Audra May 17, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Carolyn Lathrop, We're you seriously injured by a Pit bull type dog or something? You are outrageously opinionated on this subject. I think you can't really say every Pit bull type of dog is mean until you've met every single one of them. I have been in the animal field for all of my teen and adult life, and have met many many dogs. Never once have I seen any aggression from a pit bull. Actually, I've been bitten by more toy breeds than large breeds.
Audra May 17, 2012 at 03:52 PM
http://dailypicksandflicks.com/2011/06/28/nancy-the-chihuahua-world’s-smallest-sheep-herding-dog-video/ Sorry Carolyn, youre wrong. Here's a chihuahua herding some sheep. Something they were clearly not "breed" to do. Do a little google search, you'll find all sorts of dogs doing things that YOU don't think they are capable of doing. You do know that dogs aren't computers right? They can ACTUALLY be trained to do other things. I know that is probably quite a shock to you, but it's okay. We are all wrong sometimes.
jennifer May 22, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Some of you people are totally blind and ignorant! I have owned nothing but pitbulls and they are THE MOST LOYAL AND FRIENDLIEST dogs i have ever known! I have raised them around cats and children and they love everything. They are extremely smart and well behaved. IT IS THE OWNER NOT THE BREED!! they love to kiss protect nuture and snuggle. I clean houses and have had muts and small dogs growl and snap and lunge at me for even looking at them! But no one is concerned about that! ALL DOGS ARE CAPABLE OF AGREGSSION IT IS HOW THEY ARE RAISED AND TAUGHT TO BEHAVE! do some research before throwing lables!!!
jennifer May 22, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Another thing children can turn out bad because of their parents gowing up to be criminals, murders, robbers etc but does society put them to sleep....NO THEY PUT THEM IN JAIL FOR LESS THAN WHAT THEY DESERVE THEN RELEASE THEM TO DO THE SAME THING! but thats OK! its ok for people to go walking around harming and killing people and serve no harsh punishment. But let a dog be a product of a irresponsible owner and its ALL the dogs fault!!
Tiara July 18, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Thats like saying we should kill all of the middle easterns because it would save the lives of many others and could have possibly prevented 9/11.... Dogs, just like people, are a product of environment.
Tiara July 18, 2012 at 03:44 PM
EXACTLY!!!!! Dogs/People are a product of their environment Carolyn.. I would like to know if you or a good friend have ever OWNED a pit bull???
Susan August 10, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Bob, You may want to check your facts. The following is from Dogbites.org: 2011 statistics2 31 U.S. fatal dog attacks occurred in 2011. Despite being regulated in Military Housing areas and over 650 U.S. cities, pit bulls led these attacks accounting for 71% (22). Pit bulls make up less than 5% of the total U.S. dog population.3 Notably in 2011, adult victims of fatal pit bull attacks more than doubled the number of child victims. Of the 22 total pit bull victims, 68% (15) fell between the ages of 32 to 76, and 32% (7) were ages 5 years and younger. The year 2011 also marks an increase in pet pit bulls killing their owners. Of the 8 total instances this year in which a family dog inflicted fatal injury to its primary caretaker, the dog's owner, 88% (7) involved pet pit bulls. Together, pit bulls (22) and rottweilers (4), the number two lethal dog breed, accounted for 84% of all fatal attacks in 2011. In the 7-year period from 2005 to 2011, this same combination accounted for 74% (157) of the total recorded deaths (213). The breakdown between pit bulls and rottweilers is substantial over this 7-year period. From 2005 to 2011, pit bulls killed 128 Americans, about one citizen every 20 days, versus rottweilers, which killed 29; about one citizen every 88 days.
Marie March 08, 2014 at 07:27 AM
@K, while I abhor people like michael vick and I don't think he got the punishment he deserved Pit Bulls are NOT dangerous unless degenerates makes them dangerous. They are sweet lovable dogs and are extremely intelligent. Anyone who says they love their dogs and stand outside a pit watchiing them tear apart or being torn apart is one sick individual.


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