Things just got tougher for pit bulls in need of a home in Maryland now that the Maryland Court of Appeals has deemed the breed to be "inherently dangerous." The new ruling paves the way for legal action for anyone attacked by a pit bull or pit bull mix in the state. Not only will the owner of an attacking pit bull be strictly liable for damages, but even a landlord who rents to a pit bull owner will be culpable.

"When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous," the court ruled in a case stemming from a young boy who suffered life-threatening injuries when he was attacked by a pit bull in 2007. Previously, a plaintiff in a negligence lawsuit had to prove that the specific pit bull was aggressive. Now, the breed alone is enough to establish a case for damages.

The Maryland SPCA, which facilitates adoptions for dogs who are currently without homes, is concerned that it will be more difficult to find families to adopt the breed. Compounding the problem is the possibility that owners may now abandon pit bulls in their care because of the new ruling.

“We believe that an animal’s behavior should be the determining factor in whether or not the animal is considered dangerous,” said Cheryl Bernard Smith of SPCA. “We don't believe that a particular breed should be pinpointed for that."

The decision is expected to fuel the growing debate between animal rights groups and organizations that advocate to protect people from dog attacks.

Also on MNN:

Maryland court declares pit bulls are 'inherently dangerous'
Lawmakers rule that nature beats out nurture in a case that may have far-reaching effects for the dog breed.