As a decision by the Maryland Appeals Court on the inherent danger of Pit Bulls in being challenged in federal court, an 89-year-old woman is facing recovery from a disturbing surprise attack by her neighbor’s Pit Bull on Wednesday while she was inside her own fenced yard in the 200 block of Arundel Road in Pasadena, Md.
Vanessa Feeheley’s arm was severely mauled and she was rushed by ambulance to the Curtis National Hand Center at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore in response to a 911 call at about 3:25 p.m. on November 21, according to a spokesman for Anne Arundel County Fire Department
Information initially provided indicated that the elderly woman was merely standing by the fence in her backyard when her next-door neighbor's Pit Bull jumped up on the other side of the fence, lunged over and sunk its teeth into her upper arm.
The dog wouldn’t let go, according to the report. "The dog bit her on her upper arm and did pretty significant damage," Battalion Chief Steve Thompson told the Baltimore Sun.
“It’s disturbing to me to think that there’s an animal so close that could cause me potential harm,” Ms. Feeheley told Baltimore.cbslocal.com.
This Riviera Beach community in Anne Arundel County has always prided itself on being very dog-friendly, but now neighbors told reporters that they fear for their own safety after this unprovoked mauling of a helpless woman.
“I think it’s wrong to have pit bulls attack other dogs and people,” one neighbor told WJZ News.
Pasadena Animal Control has impounded and quarantined the Pit Bull., and Battalion Chief Thompson stated that the police will be investigating the attack.
Wednesday’s attack on Vanessa Feeheley is just the latest in a number of pit bull cases across Maryland, reports Baltimore.cbs.local.com.
MARYLAND APPEALS COURT FOUND PIT BULLS “INHERENTLY DANGEROUS”
The Maryland Court of Appeals in April 2012 ruled that Pit Bulls are”inherently dangerous,” whether they are pure breed or mixes, and the dog’s owner and any landlord whose tenant’s Pit Bull is involved in an attack will both be held responsible for any injuries and damages caused by the dog.
In August the Court revised its opinion to include only purebred Pit Bulls. This description was then criticized by Pit Bull advocates on the basis that there are no “purebred” Pit Bulls and the term “pit bull” is an umbrella term for different breeds.
The Appeals Court ruling was in response to a Baltimore County Circuit Court decision in the case of 10-year-old Dominic Solesky, who was attacked by a neighbor's pit bill in 2007. Dominic’s plight was so tragic that it led several local governments to reconsider the laws governing pit bulls.
Kevin A. Dunne, attorney for the Solesky family, made it clear that the high court's decision "didn't say pit bulls are banned. It makes the owner of the dog financially responsible for the injuries caused. It affects you if your dog hurts somebody else."
The ruling means that in any attack involving a pit bull, plaintiffs in civil lawsuits don't have to prove the animal's prior violent behavior for the owner to be held liable for damages.
The ruling also means landlords can be held liable in dog-bite cases on their property. This determination by Maryland’s court is in line with other jurisdictions which are increasing liability for the owners of rental property where tenants fail to properly confine and maintain dogs.
Although advocates for Pit Bulls believe the determination to be excessively harsh, statistically the largest percentage and most severe injuries result from Pit Bull attacks and often tenants do not carry insurance to reimburse the victims or pay their medical bills.
The premise that the person who allows a dog to remain on the property should ultimately have the responsibility for its behavior is hoped to place more accountability with property owners and increase safety for neighbors, stated the Court.
One ardent Pit Bull owner told WJZ after the Appeals Court decision, “If my girls are taken away from me, my world will be destroyed.”
FEDERAL COURT CHALLENGE TO PIT BULL RULING IN MARYLAND
In September a complaint was filed in federal court, suing the state of Maryland on behalf of Joseph Weigel, a resident of the low-income Armistead Gardens housing development. The judges are being asked to strike down the appeals court ruling that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.
Attorneys for Weigel contend that he would have to move out of his home at the East Baltimore housing complex if he refuses to give up his dog.
After the August decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals, Armistead Homes Corp., which manages Armistead Gardens, told residents to get rid of pure and mixed-breed pit bulls or face eviction, according to the suit.
Weigel's suit argues that in the ruling, the Appeals Court unconstitutionally overrode the property rights of people like Weigel by making them choose between their homes and their pets, and it could affect as many as 500 dog owners who live in the housing project, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Attorney Charles Edwards stated, "These people are faced with a very hard choice — homelessness or euthanization of their dogs."