A Manatee County judge has ordered the release of Padi, a dog set for euthanization in a case that’s drawn widespread attention.
Padi will be released 10 a.m. Saturday to Dr. Paul Gartenberg, his veterinarian owner. The judge’s order says the dog must be kept at Gartenberg’s office or his home, among other restrictions, while the case proceeds.
The dog was set for euthanization after injuring a child at The Pet Clinic in Bradenton, where Gartenberg allowed the dog to become the resident “greeter.”
The circumstances that led to Padi’s confinement at Manatee County Animal Services have county leaders and advocates pushing for changes that may save the dog’s life.
Gartenberg said he was in an exam room when the dog injured the boy in his office. Gartenberg said Padi acted defensively because the boy had been throwing toys at him and "cornered" the dog beneath a desk.
After supporters for Padi packed the Manatee County commission meeting Tuesday, county leaders told ABC Action News they're doing absolutely everything they can to free Padi.
This comes after animal welfare advocates expressed anger and frustration at the meeting.
"A lot of bad things are happening because you are unwilling to save this one sweet dog," said Padi Advocate Barbara Hines during the public comment period.
"One person unilaterally made the decision to have Padi euthanized," said Katherine Morningstar, another Padi advocate.
"The dog was being provoked," Morningstar added.
Manatee County commissioners have told ABC Action News the state law that mandates Padi be euthanized is too strict.
"Nobody in this county wants that dog put down," said Carol Whitmore, Manatee County commissioner at large.
Florida statute 767.13 requires that dogs in these cases, even one that had not previously been declared dangerous, be confiscated by an animal control, quarantined and, after notification, destroyed, said Attorney Dan Dannheisser, who is representing the little boy and his family.
Dannheisser said the boy's family also does not want Padi euthanized and that the state's dog bite law should be changed.
Right now, Florida's dog bite law basically states if a person receives a dog bite and requires stitches or more, the dog should be put down, he said.
"It provides for no judicial or administrative consideration of a totality of facts and circumstances before euthanizing an animal, which using as a nation constitutes both a potentially unnecessary death to an animal and a deprivation of a citizen’s property." said Dannheisser in a statement to ABC Action News.
County commissioners also say they are against euthanizing dogs in situations similar to Padi's.
"We're following the state law," Whitmore said. "We don't like the state law just like everyone else. We totally agree it needs to be softened up a little bit.”
But while the boy's family does not want the dog euthanized, Dannheisser said the family is getting online threats from the animal welfare community.
"In this case, the failure to consider the facts and issues has led to unfounded and extremely inappropriate and hurtful public statements including threats against a 4-year-old boy and very responsible 19-year-old babysitter," Dannheisser said in his statement.
Dannheisser also disagrees with Gartenberg’s and animal welfare advocates’ description of what happened, and said the little boy did not provoke Padi.
"While under the supervision of both the babysitter and Dr. Gartenberg’s daughter this little boy tossed numerous dog toys to Padi, and Padi would pick the toys up and carry them off," Dannheisser said in the statement. "At no time was a toy or anything else ever thrown at the dog by any of these three people – the four-year-old, the babysitter, or Dr. Gartenberg’s daughter."
The proposed changes to the dog bite law are already in draft form in the state's capitol. Whitmore told ABC Action News she would go to the capitol personally if necessary to make sure the changes are pushed through.