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Md. pit bull task force formed

Leading Maryland lawmakers have formed a task force to study the effect of a recent court ruling that classifies pit bulls as an "inherently dangerous" breed of dog.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch announced in a letter this week to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley that they have selected a 10-member joint task force to look at the issue, according to the Associated Press.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in April that pit bull owners and their landlords are liable for damages if one of the dogs attacks another person, regardless of whether the dog had a previous history of dangerous behavior.

Plaintiffs have traditionally had to prove negligence by the owner. The ruling was handed down in a 4-3 vote and covers both purebred pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

Animal rights activists and pit bull owners have worried the ruling could lead many shelters to euthanize pit bulls rather than put them up for adoption and force owners to give away their dogs or risk eviction.

House and Senate lawmakers proposed bills during this month's General Assembly special session that would have blocked the ruling from being enforced, but legislators chose not to take them up.

Mr. Miller, Prince George's Democrat, and Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said they could pass legislation blocking the ruling during an expected special session in July.

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