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Maryland pit bull ruling is challenged in federal court

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By FrankCBranchini - Posted on 13 September 2012,0,1004894.story

Maryland pit bull ruling is challenged in federal court

Suit seeks to overturn ruling on constitutional grounds and save residents at Armistead Gardens from eviction

·          By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun

4:28 p.m. EDT, September 12, 2012

A resident at the low-income Armistead Gardens housing development is suing the state in federal court, asking judges to strike down a recent ruling that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

In a complaint filed Wednesday, lawyers for Joseph Weigel argue that he faces homelessness if he refuses to give up his dog.

Armistead Homes Corporation, which manages Armistead Gardens, notified tenants on Aug. 21 that they must give up dogs that could be pit bulls or be evicted, according to the suit.

Under the terms of the ruling, landlords could potentially be liable if a pit bull attacks a person on their property.

As a result, the suit argues that in its recent ruling, the Maryland Court of Appeals unconstitutionally overrode the property rights of people like Weigel because it forces landlords to make residents choose between their homes or their pets.

Charles H. Edwards, Weigel's attorney, said that if a restraining order is not issued, Weigel will be homeless before the end of September. While Weigel is the only resident of the development named in the suit, Edwards said it could apply to as many as 500 dog owners who live there.

"These people are faced with a very hard choice — homelessness or euthanization of their dogs," Edwards said.

In August, the appeals court partly walked back its original ruling, applying it only to pure breed pit bulls. But pit bull is not a breed of dog, rather an umbrella term for three different breeds and Armistead Gardens told residents to get rid of pure and mixed-bred pit bulls.

Edwards said his approach to challenging the law is novel but he was honest about his chances of success.

"It's an incredibly difficult case to win, but you got to do something," he said.

Armistead Gardens did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the suit. And the State Attorney General's office was not immediately able to comment.


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