LAUREL, Md. — Prince George’s County’s controversial 25-year ban on owning pit bull dogs is now being challenged in federal court. The suit alleging violations of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of due process is being brought after two emotional support dogs were seized from a family in Laurel.
On Tuesday, Judge George B. Hazel in the Southern District of Maryland agreed to call a time-out on a motion to order Prince George’s County to stop enforcing its ban on pit bulls.
The postponement for getting an injunction against the ban was granted after both sides agreed they might be able to settle the case within a couple of months, according to Richard B. Rosenthal, the New York-based attorney representing the family with the dogs.
County residents Denise, Sophia and Stephany Venero sued after their two dogs, Bella and Mimi, were seized by Prince George's County county on July 7.
According to county documents, the dogs got loose and attacked another dog on a neighbor's property causing “severe injury” to the other dog.
Bella and Mimi have their own Instagram pages and a GoFundMe site to help pay for the legal effort.
Bella and Mimi are emotional support dogs according to court documents. The dogs are back with their owners during the litigation.
Rosenthal says the dogs were seized without the due process required under the 5th amendment.
"It's the county run amok," Rosenthal said. "They have no respect for the Constitution and no respect for their own laws."
Rosenthal said the case is all about "witch hunts."
He argues that Prince George's ban on pit bulls is illegal and unenforceable because there’s no DNA standard in the law for what a pit bull or other banned breed really is.
In 2019 the Prince George's County Council declined to repeal the ban, which was passed in 1997. In the year before that vote, county authorities reported euthanizing at least 400 dogs animal control officials said were pit bulls.
“The idea they can come seize your dog and kill it is scary for any dog owner," Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal believes the federal lawsuit makes it all but impossible for Prince George’s authorities to enforce the ban while settlement negotiations are underway.
He predicts an ultimate end to the ban.
County officials contacted by WUSA9 are refusing to comment on whether they’re continuing to enforce the ban or not.
"We cannot comment on ongoing litigation," said Gina Ford, spokesperson for County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
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