Recently the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a ruling that upset a great many people, myself included.
I suggest reading the ruling in full. Essentially the ruling changes the status of pit bulls in Maryland. Previously, if a dog of any breed bit someone, that dog needed to be proven to have been previously known to be dangerous for there to be liability. Now, if the dog in question is known to be a pit bull or pit bull mix, there is no need to prove the dog was known to be dangerous. That dog is now expected to be dangerous simply because he is a pit. To make a bad ruling even worse, it’s not just the owners that are held liable, but landlords as well if they knowingly allow a pit bull or pit bull mix to reside on their property.
To wit, pit bulls are now considered dangerous across the board for liability purposes across the entire state of Maryland. This court’s ruling is essentially back door breed specific legislation, based on misinformation and old ideas. It’s awful.
When I first heard about the decision, I was livid. Many blogs and organizations have already spoken in outrage about this decision. When I posted it on facebook, a friend of mine responded. This is a woman who has worked for years in animal shelters and convinced me to leave a relatively cushy career to move into the advocacy field. She has cried like anyone else when confronted with the difficulties inherent to the work but has never seemed to feel or express defeat.
This friend commented that this ruling made her “want to cry and yell and give up, despairing of the stupidity of humanity all at the same time.”
Her response hit me because we can’t give up. No matter how hopeless the situation, we cannot give up trying.
I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon’s Buffy and Firefly–two shows that are both about fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds. In Firefly, the hero states that he’s okay fighting a war he’s already lost. I think animal advocacy requires that, too. We need to be okay with the fact that we’re fighting against human stupidity, idiocy, and selfishness–i.e. seemingly insurmountable odds. I’m a natural optimist, I like to believe that things will get better, that the impossible can be made to happen by determined individuals. However, even if I weren’t, I would believe that fighting for animals was worthwhile. Regardless of the chance for victory, we have to help the animals we can. We can’t give up.