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Who’s Responsible?
Mass. landlords may be liable for their tenants’ dogs.

It’s not easy finding a pet-friendly apartment. There are many areas I’ve been unable to consider because none of the affordable rentals would allow my pups. From paying higher rent to sneaking dogs out for potty breaks, pet lovers often go to great lengths to live with their furry family members.

Now it could be even harder to find dog friendly housing, particularly for those breeds that are all too often stereotyped. In Massachusetts, the Court of Appeals has ruled that a jury can decide whether a landlord is liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog. The ruling came after a 10-year-old boy was attacked by a Pit Bull in his apartment building.

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals left the door wide open for breed discrimination:

“While the defendants may not be held strictly liable by virtue of [the dogs] breed, knowledge of that breed and its propensities may properly be a factor to be considered in determining whether the defendants were negligent…”

I agree that landlords have a responsibility to keep their tenants safe, but as I’ve said before, I don’t believe it’s an issue of breed. I fear that this ruling will only cause more tenants to ban Pit Bulls or even ban all dogs. I really wish more tenants would require dogs to pass a measure of responsible ownership, like the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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