In Manatee County, a fight to save a dog that bit a child is underway.
Padi, a rescue dog, belongs to Dr. Paul Gartenberg, a veterinarian in East Bradenton. Up until recently, he took the dog to work with him daily at his office, the Pet Clinic.
Now he’s no longer there.
Instead, he’s locked up at Animal Services in Palmetto and not allowed to be released.
“He’s not a dangerous dog,” said Dr. Gartenberg. “Hundreds of people have been in the office with Padi with no problems.”
Last month, Padi bit a 4-year-old boy. The boy was with his babysitter at the clinic and looking at kittens.
According to a report from Manatee County Animal Services, the babysitter told investigators the boy was playing with Padi and throwing toys for him to fetch.
At some point, the boy went into Dr. Gartenberg’s office and went under his desk.
According to a report from Manatee County Animal Services, the babysitter told investigators the boy lunged at the dog and as a result, the dog bit him, nearly biting his ear off.
The boy had to be taken to the hospital and received several stitches in his ear.
Dr. Gartenberg said he feels terrible about what happened to the child. He said he thinks the boy was provoking the dog.
“This dog was purely acting defensively,” said Dr. Gartenberg. “He went under my desk, in my office, and he was throwing toys at him. He must have just been terrified.”
However, the family's attorney disputes this, saying that according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report, the child’s babysitter told investigators that the dog lunged at the child.
Padi was taken to Animal Services and placed under quarantine under the state’s dangerous dog law. An investigation is now under way to determine if the dog should be euthanized.
“When an animal bites with a serious injury, the law is pretty clear the dog must be confiscated,” said Nicholas Azzara, with Manatee County.
Last week, a hearing was held to discuss the case.
“While the County did not contend in this case that the owner had any foreknowledge that this event would occur, and of course is sympathetic to the owner’s feelings at the potential loss of a pet, unless and until the Legislature changes the mandatory language of § 767.13(2), the Animal Services Division will, in any case involving serious injury or death to a human, be compelled to enforce the statute,” said Robert Eschenfelder, Chief Assistant County Attorney with Manatee County Attorney’s Office. “Having presented the case at the hearing, I do want Commissioners to know that I believe Animal Services staff acted professionally in compiling their case file and applying the statutory provision.”
Now while Gartenberg waits on a decision, every day he goes and visits Padi. He hopes he’ll be able to bring him home soon.
A hearing officer will determine the dog’s fate. A decision is expected by next week.
The boy’s family has hired an attorney, Dan Dannheisser. They told investigators, the boy will need several reconstructive surgeries.
As for the dog, Dannheisser said the family does not have a position either way on whether Padi gets to go home or is euthanized.