Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pit Bulls and Children

I recently responded to a post on the legal web site Avvo and thought the issue was worth addressing on my blog.  The poster was concerned that his ex-wife, with whom he shares joint custody of a minor child with, was moving in with her boyfriend who owns a pit bull.  The poster was concerned about the pit bull and the safety of his minor child.  He wanted to know whether this constituted grounds for modification of custody.  My response to his query follows:

You raise a very interesting question.  In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals (the State’s highest court) issued an opinion in which it held that pit bulls are inherently dangerous animals.  The Court imposed the legal concept of strict liability on owners of pit bulls and landlords who allow tenants to keep them on their property.  The Court’s decision in Tracey v. Solesky is available at this link:

Applying this decision to your facts, I believe that a trial court could be forced to hold that by having your son live in a residence with a pit bull he is being exposed to an inherently dangerous situation.  I think that would be a very important fact for the Court to consider on a Motion to Modify Custody.  In ruling on a motion to modify custody, the Court has to determine what is in your son’s best interest, but, clearly, residing in a house with an inherently dangerous animal is an important factor for the Court to consider.  If I was a Judge – and I’m not – I would probably tell your ex-wife to get rid of the dog or lose custody.  Why put your son’s safety at risk?

I hope this helps.  Good luck.

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