Dog Laws in Maryland

Know the law when it comes to dogs in Maryland

A recent post to our neighborhood listserve got me thinking about dogs. The poster was jogging when he came up behind a man walking his dog. As he passed, the startled dog bit his ankle, breaking the skin.

According to the jogger, the bite wasn’t serious, but the dog owner expressed little concern. He mumbled something along the lines of, “He doesn’t usually do that” and went on his way. The jogger’s post contained a smartphone photo he took of the man and dog and asked if anyone could identify them so that he could pursue the issue. This of course ignited a long chain of posts by neighbors blaming the dog walker and those saying the jogger was at fault for spooking the dog by running too close to him. Like most list serve debates, there was a combination of level-headedness and antagonism, but there’s a lot to unpack here.

What are the dog laws in Maryland?

The state of Maryland regulates dog licensing and other pertinent regulations, but individual counties adopt and enforce these rules differently. Additionally, while no dog breed is illegal in Maryland, some counties place restrictions on certain breeds that are considered aggressive. In the past, state law placed different liability restrictions for aggressive breeds, but the same rule now applies to all types of dogs. The rules are the same whether you own a pit bull or a Pekingese, but they differ slightly by county, so it’s best to consult the guidelines for whichever county you call home.

What if I’m bitten by a dog in Maryland?

As the victim of a dog bite or attack, Maryland law entitles you to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner for financial compensation. The owner can be found liable if he created a situation where an injury could have foreseeably occurred. This includes not keeping the dog in a fenced-in space, walking without a leash, or taking the dog out in public with prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness.

Somewhere along the way, an urban myth started that Maryland is a “one bite” state. This means that a dog owner isn’t liable for a bite as long as the dog has never bitten anyone before. This is untrue: you can absolutely bring a claim against the owner of a dog with no previous history of biting.

What if my dog bites someone in Maryland?

A dog bite can be a huge hit to your finances, so know what to do to limit the damage. First, contain your dog and remove him or her from the immediate area around the victim to prevent further harm. Second, and this is where the dog owner from the listserve story made a big mistake, apologize and show genuine concern for the victim. Even if you think your dog was provoked, a little remorse can go a long way towards preventing the situation from escalating. Ask for their information and permission to contact them to follow up. Mumbling an excuse and continuing on your way won’t reflect well on you if things go to court. 

Do I need dog owner’s insurance?

Some homeowner’s insurance policies cover the damages and penalties if their dog bites someone. That’s some, not all, so first check to see if your dog is covered under your homeowner’s policy. If the dog is covered, find out the policy limits. Verdicts have also been known to reach seven figures, so make sure you know how much risk you’re assuming every time you take your dog for a walk.

If you’ve been involved in a dog bite incident in Maryland, a lawyer can help you determine the best course of action. Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.