As a freshman in high school I never thought I could ever love something...scratch that….someone as much as I did Mischief. Chiffy, as we lovingly referred to her, was a street rat; an 8 week old pit bull puppy used to fending for herself until she walked into my life. The only surviving puppy of a litter of 6 (or so we were told), an angel in my eyes, went on to serve as a therapy dog and a “spokesperson” for the cause. Things could have been very different for her had she fallen into the wrong hands, but she was lucky to have found me.

Time and again we see the headlines…”Pit Bull Attacks Innocent Child While Playing in Yard” or “Pit Bull Mauls Little Girl While Walking to School”…Despite their frequency, these tragic tales do not become easier to digest. As an avid animal lover, longtime pit bull owner, and proponent of the bully breeds I am completely torn over Maryland’s recent court ruling finding pit bulls to be “inherently dangerous” animals, holding their owners strictly liable in tort law.

Background on the Pit Bull Breed

A little history for those of you unfamiliar with the breed and its history…Pit bulls, originally bred in England, were used in a sport known as bull baiting, where dogs would attack tethered bulls until the death. Today’s pit bulls are known for their role in illegal underground dog fighting. Unfortunately what so many people fail to realize is that this breed is not all bad; it’s the bad owners, the cruelty and the fighting that cause some (not all) of these dogs to appear in headlines across the nation, and incite hate and fear among those unaware of the truth behind these beautiful creatures.

Last year, Maryland’s highest court held that pit bull owners and landlords would be held strictly liable for dog bites caused by their dogs, even without evidence of the dog’s dangerous propensities or previous evidence that the dog was ever dangerous. This ruling sparked a fury among both opponents and proponents of the pit bull breed and has made it to the desks of Maryland’s elected officials to come up with a solution.

Recently the Maryland House of Delegates approved a measure that would stand to reverse the “inherently dangerous breed” ruling. On Thursday, the house voted 133-0 in favor of the bill which would allow a dog owner, even that of a pit bull, to defend a dog bite case in court, and allow them to proffer evidence that the dog is not inherently dangerous.

Are Pit Bulls or their Owners to Blame?

The issue still remains of what to do with those owners that do own vicious dogs that are a danger to the public, and that quandary falls in the laps of Maryland’s elected officials. The current bill must pass through the Senate for approval, but until then pit bull owners, lovers, and haters alike are all in limbo until the decision is made. As much as I love my pets, I do think that punishment is warranted in vicious dog bits and attacks; however the wrong party is being put on trial. It is the owners of these animals that need to suffer the consequences of improperly rearing their pets. Michael Vick, famous not only for his NFL stats but his role in a huge pit bull fighting operation got a mere slap on the wrist for his hand in raising hundreds of killing machines. What message does this send to the public? Specifically those that engage in the illegal practice of dog fighting? I can sympathize with the fear and fury behind the earlier court ruling, however condemning an entire breed and those families that love them is not the answer. I can only hope that the senate does the right thing in this situation. Perhaps a trip back to the drawing board is necessary to deal with this issue.

August 30th marks the two year anniversary of Mischief’s passing. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her like crazy, but I find solace in knowing that she had a fabulous life and led me to a cause that I am so passionate about. I praise the pit bull owners of Maryland; those that love their pets enough to call them family, those that will fight for a cause and for justice for a breed that has been scarred by ignorance and greed for so many years.