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Dog in Animal Shelter

A Florida judge has declared unconstitutional a state law mandating dogs that cause severe injury to people must be euthanized. The judge’s ruling spares the life of 4-year old Padi, a Lab mix and the pet of animal clinic owner, Paul Gartenberg.

Padi bit a child in June of this year when the child and his babysitter were visiting the pet clinic. All parties agree that the dog went into a corner to get away from the child. What followed is what was in question – did Padi lunge at the child, or did the child torment and lunge at Padi?

The injury was severe enough to require stitches and reconstructive surgery, Florida law mandated that the dog be put to sleep without regard for the circumstances. However, Judge Andrew Owens, in his ruling, declared that the law is unconstitutional because it doesn’t fulfill the intent of the statute and is arbitrary and unduly oppressive.

Gartenberg says there were hundreds of bites reported last year in Manatee County. “There’s some selective enforcement that goes on; it’s not clear-cut how they deal with each and every one of them,” Gartenberg told the Bradenton Herald.

Owen’s decision does not change the dog bite law for the entire state, but for the 12th Judicial District, which includes Manatee, DeSoto and Sarasota counties. The counties’ Animal Control services have been ordered to no longer enforce the law and to close any open cases having to do with dog bites.

Padi’s owner, Gartenberg, says the whole thing has been a nightmare. Animal Services took his dog after the incident, and asked him to sign papers authorizing them to euthanize Padi. For three months, he had to drive to Animal Services to visit his pet.

Now, Padi will have a Merry Christmas, and dogs in three Florida counties will now have the presumption of innocence before being put down for biting someone.

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