Labrador Padi’s court hearing was held on Wednesday, but the dog’s fate will remain unknown for about two weeks.
The Labrador mix’s defense team argued that the dog bite law in Florida is unconstitutional.
More than 100 Padi supporters gathered on Wednesday afternoon and filled the Manatee Judicial Center for the Labrador mix’s hearing.
The Manatee County and Paul Gartenberg, Padi’s owner, asked the judge to rule on the constitutionality of a Florida’s dog bite law is unconstitutional. If this is the outcome, Padi’s life will be saved.Both parties argued that the state’s dangerous dog statute should be ruled unconstitutional.
Padi’s fate rests in the hands of Judge Andrew Owens Jr., who is expected to issue a written ruling in about two weeks.
Both Manatee County’s chief assistant attorney Robert Eschenfelder and Padi’s attorney Charles Britt told Owens that the state dog bite law is unconstitutional because it does not provide dog owners with a legal defense.
“The legislature has given animal control authorities unfettered authority to order the killing of any dog who has not previously been declared dangerous and who causes severe injury regardless of the circumstances,” Eschenfelder said. “The statute itself deprived dog owners of their constitutional right to substantive due process.”
Britt agrees with Eschenfelder. He also used the Stand Your Ground law during the hearing.
Both attorneys also said that the statute is interpreted differently from county to county.
“The court once and for all needs to parse this issue,” Eschenfelder said.
“Two people can look at the same law and read it differently. That in and of itself makes it unconstitutional,” Britt said. “Law should be clear and ensure that there is no guesswork.”
Britt adds that aside from being unconstitutional, the law is not being applied correctly in this case.
“This law is not for a dog that nips someone’s ear and maybe trims a little bit off the top of their ear,” Britt said. “The law was written in response to a serious mauling of, I think it was an 83-year-old woman who was mauled to death by three Pit Bulls.”
In June, Padi bit a 4-year-old boy’s ear in his owner’s veterinary clinic in Bradenton. For the past five months, Padi’s owners and supporters have been calling for the Labrador’s permanent freedom.
In August, Padi was released from animal control on “bail” and is now living with his owners under certain conditions until the matter is resolved.
“I realize this is an emotional case but in a courtroom civility must prevail,” Owens said.
Padi’s attorney said he felt pretty good about the case.
“Judge Owens is a great judge,” Britt said. “He’s been around a long time. He’s got a lot of common sense and I think he sees things for what they are. I think he’s a firm believer in the Constitution, like all of our judges, and I think that they will see that this statute has got a little bit of problem, and I think the way it is being enforced here in Manatee County, that they are going to see that that’s unconstitutional and hopefully rule that way as well.”
“We’d like to just get an unconditional release of him (Padi). At this point, he’s under house arrest,” Dr. Gartenberg said. “We’re hoping that the efforts made today and the recent past will prevent somebody else from ever having to go through the same thing again.”
Source: Bradenton Herald