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Slam the Gavel Blog

Landlords and Pitbulls

Posted by Matthew J. Hornsby on August 30, 2012 at 6:20 AM

          It will come as no surprise to most people that landlords often prohibit their tenants from keeping pets on the rented property. For the most part, this is to prevent pet damage, stained carpets, etc. A less familiar, but equally important, reason for such restrictions on pets is the potential for liability, especially with so called “vicious dogs.” And when it comes to dogs, we all know that pit bulls have a reputation (fair or not) for being an especially vicious breed.


          There is a recent trend of cities passing laws banning pit bulls altogether. In Maryland, the state legislature recently passed a law labeling pit bulls as “inherently dangerous” and increasing the legal liability imposed on pit bull owners – and their landlords – for dog bites caused by pit bulls. As you would expect, the reaction of landlords, in fear of finding themselves on the business end of a dog bite law suit, was to send out letters to tenants, demanding that the pit bulls be removed from the rental property or face eviction.


          I’m not sure where I stand on the idea of pit bulls being inherently dangerous. Certainly, we hear stories of pit bull attacks all the time. But do we hear these stories because pit bulls truly are more dangerous, or because an attack by a pit bull grabs headlines better than an attack by a beagle?


          I don’t believe you can blame the landlords for requiring the removal of the pit bulls. In a society where a huge money judgment from a dog bite case can cost the landlord everything he/she owns, how do you expect the landlord to respond? Demanding the removal of the dog is an act of self-preservation, and it’s wise, legally speaking. The harsh truth is, these pet owners now have to make a choice between giving up their beloved pet – or moving their family out of their home. It’s the result of a legislature passing a law intended to protect people, but instead, making their lives more difficult. Sound familiar?

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