Florida Judge Rules Against State’s Dog-Bite Law, Saves Dog’s Life

The judge struck down a law requiring dogs who cause severe injury to people to be euthanized, sparing the life of a Lab mix who bit a young boy.

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Four-year-old Padi with his owner, Dr. Paul Gartenberg, following the ruling.  Via Bradenton Herald
Four-year-old Padi with his owner, Dr. Paul Gartenberg, following the ruling. Via Bradenton Herald
Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig

Thanks to a Florida judge’s decision earlier this week, a 4-year-old male Labrador Retriever mix will not be put to death.

Judge Andrew Owens on Monday declared a Florida law mandating dogs who cause severe injury to people be euthanized as unconstitutional, calling the statute “arbitrary and unduly oppressive,” reports the Bradenton Herald.

“(The statute) results in an unconstitutional delegation of discretion in animal control authorities insofar as the statute provides animal control authorities no guided authority to select the severity of consequences for a dog’s actions,” the ruling states.

The case and controversy began June 4, 2015, when Padi bit the ear of a child who was visiting the Pet Clinic in Bradenton, Florida, with his babysitter. Padi, in attempt to get away from the child, reportedly went into a corner of the office, however, the child followed him. There is question whether the child then lunged at Padi first or vice versa.

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Padi, who was accused of attacking a child, will live to bark another day. Via Bradenton Herald

Because the child’s injuries were considered severe, the state’s dog-bite law required Padi be put down, regardless of the circumstance under which the dog attacked, the Herald reports.

Padi’s owner — Paul Gartenberg, who owns the clinic — told the southwestern Florida paper that there are hundreds of dog bites each year in his county, but not all cases are treated the same.

“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 Herald. “So maybe this will make it easier for them and stop somebody else from going through the same situation that I have.”

Reportedly, the judge in the case wrote legislators who enacted the law, saying that they had intended to protect people from “unprovoked attacks” and that this situation was not one that should be applied to Padi.

Jeanne and Paul Gartenberg show their love for Padi after learning he won't be euthanized. Via Bradenton Herald

Jeanne and Paul Gartenberg show their love for Padi after learning he won’t be euthanized. Via Bradenton Herald

“The Court finds it illogical and inconsistent that an owner of a dog facing a dangerous dog investigation and classification under (the dangerous dog law) may assert certain defenses such as provocation, defense of a family member or person from an unjustified attack, but an owner of a dog subjected to the provisions of (the severe dog bite statute) enjoys no such defenses, notwithstanding the statute’s constitutional validity, to prevent that statutory mandated execution of their dog,” the judge wrote.

Owens’ decision only changes the law for three of Florida’s counties, not the entire state. The parents of the 4-year-old child reportedly have filed suit against Gartenberg for damages associated with the bite.

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