The Federation files Temporary Restraining Order, lawsuit, to end PG Breed Ban

On Friday, the Maryland Dog Federation filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the county’s dog breed ban. If granted, it will require the county to immediately stop seizing dogs from their families simply for what they look like. A hearing to permanently stop enforcement would follow that would eliminate the breed specific dog law throughout the county.

For 16 years the county breed ban has forced the seizure and killing of thousands of family dogs despite their doing nothing wrong. Repeated requests to the county council for repeal have gone unanswered. Legislative efforts have failed; legal action is now the next option. The Federation’s attorney, Anne Benaroya, director of the Maryland Animal Law Center, has requested a Temporary Restraining Order and Permanent Injunction to cease its enforcement of the dog breed ban.

“This will be a true David and Golliath case,” says Maryland Dog Federation Executive Director Adrianne Lefkowitz. “We are a local grassroots organization with limited resources going up against a huge county. This case is far from won and fighting for our rights is an expensive process. There are hundreds, thousands of citizens who have had the family dog ripped away from them. This law provides no additional safety benefit to the county superior to enforcing behavior-specific laws instead. We expect resistance from the county and that’s why we need the support of everyone who cares about fairness, dogs and people.” For more information visit the federation website and consider a contribution to the Prince George’s County Family Dog Legal Defense Fund (http://bit.ly/PGFamDogs).

Prince George’s County is the second largest municipality in the United States to have a dog breed ban. The law was enacted in 1997 despite the county’s strong, effective, breed-neutral, behavior-specific potentially dangerous dog law, vicious dog law, nuisance law, and leash law, established years prior to keep the public safe. No municipality needs breed-specific laws and Prince George’s is no exception. The county breed ban is hugely expensive, ineffective, and allows for dogs to be seized and killed for doing nothing wrong –without increasing public safety.

Please consider a financial contribution to the Prince George’s Family Dogs Defense Fund to help the effort.

Every penny of your contribution is earmarked to this case. you can save innocent family dogs with a click of your mouse and your support.

Support HB422. Because landlords don’t

Since the April 2012 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling which ultimately defined purebred pit bulls as inherently dangerous and held property owners strictly liable for injuries caused by them, landlords have insisted that we dog owners work with them to remove their strict liability lest purebred pit bull owning tenants be forced to choose between their dog and their home.

Throughout this unfair ruling, dog owners have held up their end of the bargain and have assumed that, by helping to nullify strict liability for landlords, they will be able to keep their homes and their beloved furred family members.

It now seems landlords never intended to play fair.

In each of the almost 23 months since the Solesky ruling was handed down, tenants have been receiving their renewal leases. Usually the only thing a tenant worries about at renewal time is the inevitable rent increase. Tenants may not even notice, but for the majority of them there might be a new, devastating prohibition to peaceably keep the beloved family dog — a clause that says “no pit bulls”. In other words, a breed discriminatory lease.

So, despite dog owners tirelessly lobbying for HB73 that would protect landlords from strict liability, landlords still want the option to force them out because of the kind of dog they love. So, why won’t the landlords support HB422, a bill that would end breed specific law and housing discrimination for dog owners? A bill that helps dog owners stay in their homes because it prevents landlords from deciding what kind of dog YOU can own?

Landlords STILL want to be able to write breed specific leases even if the Solesky ruling is nullified. Even though we’ve been told by the Attorney General’s office there’s no vestigial breed specific case law to be concerned about.

Did landlords ever intend to cooperate with their dog owning tenants?

We’ve done what the landlords wanted us to do. We pulled out the stops to help them get rid of their strict liability. Why are they still trying to throw out dog owners out based on the kind of dog they own?

Please support HB422. Because we want landlords to play fair and nullifying the Solesky ruling for them isn’t enough.

Are You a ’4 Percenter’?

About two years ago the Court of Appeals ruled that “purebred pit bulls” (whatever that means) were inherently dangerous and that landlords were strictly liable for their actions.

Every month since then a new group of tenants receive their lease renewal (most are on a two year lease, so each month about 4% of tenants experience a lease renewal – hence “the 4 percenters”). Usually, the only thing a tenant worries about when their lease comes up for renewal is a rent increase.

Tenants may not even notice, but for the majority of them there is a new clause in their lease that says…”no pit bulls”. Every month, 4 percent of dog owning tenants are likely to have a new, devastating prohibition to peaceably keep the beloved family dog.

What’s our next problem? Lease renewals with breed discriminatory clauses! By April 2014 or sometime thereafter probably 90% of all Maryland dog owning tenants will have signed a new lease since the Solesky decision was published. We expect every new lease will be changed to have a breed discriminatory clause. Once leases have breed discriminatory clauses, tenants can be evicted even if landlords are not strictly liable anymore.

HB422 is the only bill proposed this year that stops this ever growing problem.
If you are a 4 percenter, HB422 will save your dog and save your family. Ask the Judiciary Committee to vote for it:

Joseph.vallario@house.state.md.us
Kathleen.dumais@house.state.md.us
Curt.anderson@house.state.md.us
Sam.arora@house.state.md.us
Jill.carter@house.state.md.us
Luke.clippinger@house.state.md.us
John.cluster@house.state.md.us
Frank.conaway@house.state.md.us
Glen.glass@house.state.md.us
Michael.hough@house.state.md.us
Kevin.kelly@house.state.md.us
Susan.lee@house.state.md.us
Susan.mccomas@house.state.md.us
Mike.mcdermott@house.state.md.us
Keiffer.mitchell@house.state.md.us
Neil.parrott@house.state.md.us
Samuel.rosenberg@house.state.md.us
Luiz.simmons@house.state.md.us
Michael.smigiel@house.state.md.us
Kris.valderrama@house.state.md.us
Geraldine.valentino.smith@house.state.md.us
Jeff.waldstreicher@house.state.md.us

Need JUD phone numbers? See below.

Joseph Vallario, District 27A, 410-841-3488
Kathleen Dumais, District 15, 301-858-3052
Curt Anderson, District 43, 410-841-3291
Sam Arora, District 19, 301-858-3528
Jill P. Carter, District 41, 410-841-3268
Luke Clippinger, District 46, 301-858-3303
Frank Conaway, District 40, 410-841-3189
Glen Glass, District 34A, 301-858-3280
Michael Hough, District 3B, 301-858-3472
Kevin Kelly, District 1B, 301-858-3404
Susan Lee, District 16, 301 858-3649
Susan McComas, District 35B, 301-858-3272
Michael McDermott, District 38B, 301-858-3431
Neil Parrott, District 2B, 301- 858-3636
Samuel Rosenberg, District 41, 410-841-3297
Luiz Simmons, District 17, 301-858-3037
Michael Smigiel, District 36, 410-841-3555
Darren Swain, District 24, 301-858-3692
Kris Valderrama, District 26, 301-841-3210
Geraldine Valentino-Smith, District 23A, 301-858-3101
Jeffrey Waldstreicher, District 18, 301-858-3130

Top Seven Things To Know About HB422

1. The nightmare of 14-day evictions because of the Solesky ruling started in April 2012. If we try to resolve the ruling by addressing only strict liability, tenants will quickly face another problem if they haven’t already…their next two year lease. Even if the Solesky ruling is nullified with HB73 or another bill that only eliminates strict liability for landlords, what’s to stop a landlord from including a “no pit bulls” clause in the lease renewal? HB422. HB422 is the ONLY bill being proposed that ACTUALLY SOLVES HOUSING DISCRIMINATION FOR DOG OWNERS.
2. HB422 prevents landlords from writing “no [insert breed]” leases. Retroactively. That means, if you have a “no [insert breed]” lease when the law takes effect, that clause is no longer enforceable.
3. HB422 prevents condo associations, homeowner associations from regulating dogs by breed, type, or heritage. Retroactively.
4. HB422 prohibits dogs from being defined or declared dangerous (inherently) by breed, type, or heritage.
5. HB422 stops counties and municipalities from declaring a dog dangerous, potentially dangerous, inherently dangerous, a nuisance, or otherwise regulating dogs by breed, type, or heritage.
6. HB422 can be passed side by side with any of the other bills that propose eliminating strict liability for landlords for the actions of a tenant’s dog (HB73, HB80, HB565, etc).
7. The Solesky ruling affects “PUREBRED pit bulls” ONLY. If landlords are threatening to evict tenants who have mixed breed pit bulls or “pit bull type” dogs…the Solesky rule is NOT the problem. That’s why we need HB422 as much as simply getting rid of strict liability for purebred pit bulls.

What’s the most important thing to know about HB422: YOU CAN MAKE THIS LAW HAPPEN! CONTACT THE MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:

Joseph.vallario@house.state.md.us
Kathleen.dumais@house.state.md.us
Curt.anderson@house.state.md.us
Sam.arora@house.state.md.us
Jill.carter@house.state.md.us
Luke.clippinger@house.state.md.us
John.cluster@house.state.md.us
Frank.conaway@house.state.md.us
Glen.glass@house.state.md.us
Michael.hough@house.state.md.us
Kevin.kelly@house.state.md.us
Susan.lee@house.state.md.us
Susan.mccomas@house.state.md.us
Mike.mcdermott@house.state.md.us
Keiffer.mitchell@house.state.md.us
Neil.parrott@house.state.md.us
Samuel.rosenberg@house.state.md.us
Luiz.simmons@house.state.md.us
Michael.smigiel@house.state.md.us
Kris.valderrama@house.state.md.us
Geraldine.valentino.smith@house.state.md.us
Jeff.waldstreicher@house.state.md.us

JUD Districts and Phone Numbers

Joseph Vallario, District 27A, 410-841-3488
Kathleen Dumais, District 15, 301-858-3052
Curt Anderson, District 43, 410-841-3291
Sam Arora, District 19, 301-858-3528
Jill P. Carter, District 41, 410-841-3268
Luke Clippinger, District 46, 301-858-3303
Frank Conaway, District 40, 410-841-3189
Glen Glass, District 34A, 301-858-3280
Michael Hough, District 3B, 301-858-3472
Kevin Kelly, District 1B, 301-858-3404
Susan Lee, District 16, 301 858-3649
Susan McComas, District 35B, 301-858-3272
Michael McDermott, District 38B, 301-858-3431
Neil Parrott, District 2B, 301- 858-3636
Samuel Rosenberg, District 41, 410-841-3297
Luiz Simmons, District 17, 301-858-3037
Michael Smigiel, District 36, 410-841-3555
Darren Swain, District 24, 301-858-3692
Kris Valderrama, District 26, 301-841-3210
Geraldine Valentino-Smith, District 23A, 301-858-3101
Jeffrey Waldstreicher, District 18, 301-858-3130

Say YES to HB422, make Maryland the next NO-BDL state!!

Marylanders! Call and email your delegates TODAY…tell them to support HB422…legislation that will make Maryland the next state to END breed discrimination! If passed HB422 will prevent dogs from being declared dangerous by breed, type or heritage, and prevent landlords,HOAs and local governments from discriminating against dogs (and their owners) simply because of a dog’s looks.

Find out who represents you: click here.

Your polite calls and emails are needed today to your county delegates and members of the House Judiciary Committee (JUD). Is your delegate on the JUD? All the better! Nearly every member of the House agreed last year that breed discrimination should end and no dog should be declared inherently dangerous solely by breed, type, or heritage. Ask them to do it again this year by voting favorably for HB422.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee are:

Joseph.vallario@house.state.md.us
Kathleen.dumais@house.state.md.us
Curt.anderson@house.state.md.us
Sam.arora@house.state.md.us
Jill.carter@house.state.md.us
Luke.clippinger@house.state.md.us
John.cluster@house.state.md.us
Frank.conaway@house.state.md.us
Glen.glass@house.state.md.us
Michael.hough@house.state.md.us
Kevin.kelly@house.state.md.us
Susan.lee@house.state.md.us
Susan.mccomas@house.state.md.us
Mike.mcdermott@house.state.md.us
Keiffer.mitchell@house.state.md.us
Neil.parrott@house.state.md.us
Samuel.rosenberg@house.state.md.us
Luiz.simmons@house.state.md.us
Michael.smigiel@house.state.md.us
Kris.valderrama@house.state.md.us
Geraldine.valentino.smith@house.state.md.us
Jeff.waldstreicher@house.state.md.us

Need JUD phone numbers? See below.

There are many reasons why BSL doesn’t work:

It’s expensive and resource-intensive to enforce…landlords, law enforcement, average citizens, even animal control are not breed identification experts; breed identification is arbitrary and subjective especially with mixed breed dogs…communities that have BSL are not safer…counties have behavior-specific laws that address dangerous dogs, nuisance dogs, dogs running at-large; there are few canine transgressions that are not covered by breed-neutral laws…breed is not predictive of behavior…people are being forced to choose between their beloved family pet and a roof over their head

For many years thirteen states prohibited breed bans: Texas, Oklahoma, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Minnesota, Illinois with Washington, California, Colorado, and Florida mostly prohibiting bans. In the last two years the no-BSL list has grown to include Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Already this year South Dakota and Missouri have introduced legislation to prevent BSL in those states as well. Will Maryland be next? Ask your legislator to vote YES on HB422 today!

JUD Districts and Phone Numbers

Joseph Vallario, District 27A, 410-841-3488
Kathleen Dumais, District 15, 301-858-3052
Curt Anderson, District 43, 410-841-3291
Sam Arora, District 19, 301-858-3528
Jill P. Carter, District 41, 410-841-3268
Luke Clippinger, District 46, 301-858-3303
Frank Conaway, District 40, 410-841-3189
Glen Glass, District 34A, 301-858-3280
Michael Hough, District 3B, 301-858-3472
Kevin Kelly, District 1B, 301-858-3404
Susan Lee, District 16, 301 858-3649
Susan McComas, District 35B, 301-858-3272
Michael McDermott, District 38B, 301-858-3431
Neil Parrott, District 2B, 301- 858-3636
Samuel Rosenberg, District 41, 410-841-3297
Luiz Simmons, District 17, 301-858-3037
Michael Smigiel, District 36, 410-841-3555
Darren Swain, District 24, 301-858-3692
Kris Valderrama, District 26, 301-841-3210
Geraldine Valentino-Smith, District 23A, 301-858-3101
Jeffrey Waldstreicher, District 18, 301-858-3130

The Dogs Have Their Day – In Court

Dogs Don’t Lie About Love. Or Licenses.

Guglieimi/Maryland Dog Federation v. Prince George’s County Animal Management Division

Day Ten, October 3, 2013

Prince George’s County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC, with a population of almost 900,000 people, is the second largest municipality in the U.S. with a breed ban. On September 26, 2013, a private individual and the Maryland Dog Federation sued Prince George’s County’s Animal Management Division (PGCAMD) for failure to uphold the rights of people with disabilities and the unlawful enforcement of the dog breed ban.

There are two parts to this lawsuit and this court date concentrated on the service dog aspect. In March 2013, an Animal Management Division (AMD) officer visited the home of Plaintiff Dani Gugliemi to inform her there was a report of an “illegal pit bull” on the premises. She was given 48 hours to remove the dog or risk seizure and arrest, jail time and fine. Dani informed the Animal Control officer (ACO) that Storm was a service dog. The ACO allowed Dani to “spot” license her pet dog, Zoey that evening, but would not allow her to license Storm the service dog, because the dog was of an illegal breed and had to be removed from the county permanently.

In order to keep her service dog safe, Dani and her husband traveled through the night to take Storm to their vacation home until they could figure out what to do. For the next six months, Storm was shuttled between boarding kennels, friends and families across four states and countless counties in an effort to keep her from being seized. During her exile, Storm lost weight, missed her family, and was beginning to lose her skills as a service dog.

Sure enough, two weeks post-exile, the Animal Control officer returned with another report that Storm was seen in the neighborhood. That report was fabricated. The ACO again threatened Dani, “if we find that your dog was back in the county you are going to jail and we’re taking your dog.”

During the months without Storm, Dani fell and injured herself on more than one occasion, was bedridden for weeks and unable to do all those normal activities of daily living that she could do with Storm’s help. Dani was losing hope too.

For six months, despite Dani’s multiple statements that Storm was her service dog, despite multiple unanswered voicemail messages to AMD officials, and despite the county’s clear and blatant violation of the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); the only position the county took was that, as a “pit bull”, Storm was illegal and not permitted in Prince George’s County.

The county’s story, as told on the witness stand by Rodney Taylor, AMD Administrator, was quite different. And, as it turns out, not quite plausible.

In court, Mr. Taylor tried to blame Dani for not getting a “guide dog” license for Storm. He also claimed she should have been aware of it, and further, claimed said license is and has always been available for “pit bulls”. Taylor further testified AMD receives “dozens of calls a week” for the license. However, as we later discovered, the licenses have apparently only been issued 17 times for dogs of any type in a county of almost 900,000 people and, in apparent violation of letter and spirit of state law and the ADA, NEVER for a dog identified as a “pit bull”.

The judge clearly saw through the County’s testimony and ruled PGAMD must establish a process and procedure by which owners of legitimate pit bull service dogs can obtain a license for that dog, AND plainly publish information on the AMD website on how to obtain such a license, AND that Dani must be provided with Storm’s service dog license within 24 hours. Because of this lawsuit we scored a huge victory on Day 10 of our court case (1). We forced Prince George’s County to retroactively license service dogs that are “pit bulls”.

We will let everyone know when the next part of the case goes back into court…the part to entirely dismantle the Prince George’s County breed ban. Until then, please consider a contribution to the Prince George’s County Family Dog Legal Defense Fund. We fully expect the county to fight us every step of the way. Every penny of your contribution is earmarked to this case.

ENDNOTE:

(1) To recap our court case successes thus far:
1. Because we sued them, and only because we sued them, every “pit bull” in Prince George’s County that is a guide/service dog is exempted from the ban.
2. Per the county’s admission, the exemption dates back to the day the ban was passed so anyone wanting to register a “pit bull” as a bona fide “guide/service dog” may do so as of October 3, 2013, regardless of when the dog was acquired and regardless of what the county may have told the resident previously.

Maryland Dog Federation Sues Prince George’s County to End Dog Breed Ban

September 24, 2013, GREENBELT, MARYLAND – A Maryland Circuit Court judge has ruled that Prince George’s County is in violation of state law, ordering the immediate return of a mobility assistance service dog named Storm to her Beltsville owner who needs her dog to get around safely. The Maryland Animal Law Center’s Anne Benaroya, Esq., is the attorney for plaintiffs Dani Gugliemi and the Maryland Dog Federation, who is representing a number of its members whose dogs have been seized under this law.

Since early July of this year, trained service dog Storm has been prohibited from the county for being a “pit bull”, sight unseen, after an anonymous complaint made to Prince George’s County Animal Management. According to current county law, dogs of three breeds, mixes of those breeds, or dogs that resemble those breeds are banned from the county. Such dogs are subject to confiscation and death by lethal injection; their owners are subject to fine and up to six months in jail. But State and Federal law does not permit breed discriminatory laws such as the county’s ban to affect a person with a disability or her service dog. Storm’s owner, a polio, cancer, and chemotherapy survivor with obvious mobility impairment, was threatened with arrest if Storm was ever found in the county.

Additionally, a preliminary injunction to completely stop the enforcement of the county’s “pit bull ban” is scheduled for October 3rd. If signed, it would require the county to immediately stop seizing dogs from their families simply for what they look like. A trial to stop enforcement permanently would follow which would eliminate the breed specific dog law throughout the county.

“This will be a true David and Golliath case,” says Maryland Dog Federation Executive Director Adrianne Lefkowitz. “We are a local grassroots organization with limited resources going up against a huge county. This case has just begun and fighting for our rights is an expensive process. We expect a lot of resistance from the county and that’s why we need the support of everyone who cares about this issue.” For more information visit the federation website http://www.marylanddogfederation.com/local or contribute to the Prince George’s County Family Dog Legal Defense Fund: http://bit.ly/PGFamDogs .

Prince George’s County is the second largest municipality in the United States to have breed discriminatory law, which was enacted in 1997. Like thousands of other jurisdictions across the country, the county has a number of other breed neutral, behavior specific laws that protect the public from dangerous, stray, and nuisance dogs. Breed bans allow for dogs to be seized and killed for doing nothing wrong.

A 2005 county task force report concluded the county breed specific law costs hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to enforce, yet hundreds and hundreds of dogs identified as “pit bulls” still enter the county shelter and there seems to be no appreciable decrease of illegal dogs in the county. Although the “breed ban” is a criminal offense, many residents have had their dogs shot by the police or taken away by Animal Management without even being charged with a crime and therefore, without a right to a public defender or jury trial.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III, has stated he would like to see the Prince George’s county ban repealed and the breed neutral dangerous animal laws well enforced.

Based on myth and misinformation, a 2012 ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals declared “purebred pit bulls” to be inherently dangerous and landlords be held responsible for injuries incurred as a result of those dogs’ involvement in a dog bite incident on their rental property. 2013 legislation to nullify this ruling failed in the 11th hour. It is anticipated that the Maryland General Assembly will again attempt to nullify the ruling during the upcoming General Assembly session, scheduled to begin in January 2014.

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