Maryland has become the first state in the nation to declare that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. The Court of Appeals ruling also means it will be easier for victims to go after dog owners if they are bitten.
Animal shelters are bracing for an influx of pit bulls from people worried about the liability issues.
"It's crazy. All dogs are individuals. A breed doesn't determine the personality of the dog. Its experiences do [and] how it's treated," says Jennifer Flach of the organization Presidential Pits.
But after some serious mauling incidents in Maryland, the Court of Appeals handed down this ruling. It means dog owners and their landlords can be held financially liable for any damage a pit bull does, even if it has never bitten anyone before.
"People are being forced to choose between their homes and their pets basically, and shelters are bracing for an influx of pit bulls when they're already full. So it could result in lots of animals being euthanized totally unnecessarily," says Tami Santelli, Maryland State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.
She was invited to speak at a panel at George Washington University on what this new ruling will mean for Maryland pit bull owners and landlords. The advocacy group is one of several that have already spoken out against it.
"It's discrimination against a specific breed that is unfounded and unwarranted," says Scott Giacoppo, Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Programs Officer at the Washington Humane Society.
Dog bite victims are applauding the court ruling and hope other states will follow suit. But Maryland legislators want to examine the ruling's implications. They have set up a task force to look into it.
"We're grateful to [Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch] and Senate President Mike Miller for establishing a joint task force of legislators to look at this issue, and we're hopeful that they will put it on the agenda if they come back for a special session in July," says Santelli.