In Florida, a severe dog bite law has been declared unconstitutional based upon a ruling by Judge Andrew Owens. Based upon the requirements mandated by the law, a famous dog named Padi the Labrador would be required to be euthanized for biting a child’s ear. Padi’s owner, Paul Gartenberg, took the case to court, and Judge Owens claimed the Florida statute was “arbitrary and unduly oppressive.”
In a related report by the Inquisitr, both a pit bull and its owner were involved in an attack, but the actual attacker’s identity may be surprising.
The dog attack occurred on June 4, 2015, when the child and his babysitter were visiting the Pet Clinic in Bradenton, Florida, which is owned by Gartenberg. The vet explained that he allowed the 4-year-old Labrador access to the front office because it comforted other dogs coming for a visit.
“Believe it or not, he was a comfort to a lot of dogs that were nervous about coming to a vet’s office. They’d have to be dragged across the parking lot, they’d put on the brakes at the front door there, and when they open the door and there’s a dog there wagging his tail, all happy, it’s a comfort to them,” Gartenberg said, according to the Bradenton Herald.
The Labrador’s attack was apparently caused by the child chasing the dog around the office. The Labrador had retreated into a corner of the office to escape the child, but the child followed Padi into the room.
Accounts differ on whether Padi the Labrador lunged at the child or if the child lunged at the dog first, but the end result would likely have been the same. The dog bit at the child’s face, grabbing onto the ear. The damage from the dog bite was so extensive that the child required stitches and reconstructive surgery.
Gartenberg described the response by Florida officials as a “nightmare.” Based upon the older version of Florida’s dog bite law, the statute required that Padi be put down regardless of the circumstances of the dog attack.
In June, Animal Services seized Padi the Labrador, and they wanted the owner to sign paperwork authorizing euthanasia for his pet. While Gartenberg fought against the law, the vet postponed surgeries, worked late, and drove 20 minutes to visit his pet at the Animal Services offices in Palmetto.
According to the Associated Press, these efforts paid off because Judge Owens declared Florida’s dog bite law unconstitutional in his recent ruling.
“(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 main issue at stake was Florida’s dangerous dog law, which was written in order to protect people from “unprovoked attacks.” Under the current law, owners of dangerous dogs can contest a decision by providing evidence that a dog was acting in self-defense. In the case of Padi, the dog was not declared dangerous, so the owner did not have the right to contest euthanasia.
“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,” Judge Owens wrote.
Although the judge ruled Florida’s dog bite law unconstitutional, the decision only affects Florida counties like Manatee, Sarasota, and Desoto. But Florida state representative Greg Steube is hoping to change the severe dog bite law for the entire state through a newly introduced bill.
“This shows the importance of this legislation. Several courts have declared this unconstitutional,” Steube said. “It’s important to have a new law so in cases like Padi we can have consistency throughout the state.”
Unfortunately, the trial is not quite over for Padi’s owner. The child’s parents have filed a lawsuit against Paul Gartenberg for the damages associated with the dog bite, but Gartenberg is just happy to have a merry Christmas knowing that his pet won’t be killed.