MANATEE -- A judge has ordered a dog facing euthanasia for biting off part of a child's ear to be released, while he reviews the constitutionality of the state law that requires dogs be killed if they cause a severe injury.
At 2 p.m. Friday, Chief Assistant County Attorney Robert Eschenfelder and attorney Charles Britt, on behalf of Padi's owners Paul Gartenberg and his wife, filed a joint motion asking the circuit court to intervene and rule on the constitutionality of the state law.
Circuit Judge Gilbert Smith will rule on the fate of the 4-year-old male Labrador mix.
Smith also signed an order at Britt's request asking Padi to be released while the cased is reviewed and decided.
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Gartenberg was out of town at the time of the decision and is unlikely to arrive at Animal Services before closing time to pick up Padi, Britt told the Herald. Arrangements are being made for Padi to be picked up Saturday morning.
"Padi shall be released from the possession of Manatee County Animal Services to the possession of Dr. Paul Gartenberg for 'quarantine' and 'safely confined' at all times during the pendency of this action," the order states.
The order also stipulates:
Padi shall remain micro-chipped.
A "Beware of Dog" sign must be visible at the Gartenberg residence.
Padi shall be restricted to the Gartenberg's pet clinic or home at all times.
Ownership or control of Padi shall not be transferred.
When Padi is not in an enclosed structure such as a house or cage, he must remain on a leash or tethered at all times.
Padi cannot have contact with children unless at least one adult member of the Gartenberg family is present.
When Padi is at the animal clinic during office hours, Padi shall remain in a restricted area or cage.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore was thrilled when she heard the news of Padi's pending release.
"Not one person in Manatee County wanted that dog put down," Whitmore said. "The circumstances definitely showed that the dog was provoked."
Whitmore said she was personally thankful to the judge for his decision. Behind the scenes Gartenberg and Britt worked with the county, she said, because they wanted the same result but wanted to do so legally.
Whitmore said she hopes the case will show that killing the dog is unconstitutional.
Members of community in support of Padi being released celebrated when news of the judge's decision broke.
"Hallelujah, I'm just thrilled to pieces," said Deborah Bird, President of Florida Dachshund Rescue.
Bird said she understands this decision is temporary, pending the judge's ultimate decision on the law.
"At least Padi is not at Animal Control," Bird said. "I'm so happy for Dr. Gartenberg. He's a wonderful person."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.