A pit bull that mauled a 4-year-old Phoenix boy has received a groundswell of support ahead of a court hearing to decide if it should be euthanized.
On Feb. 20, 4-year-old Kevin Vicente was badly injured after he entered a neighbor's yard and picked up a bone lying near Mickey, a 5-year-old pit bull mix.
The dog attacked the boy and caused injuries that will require months and possibly years of reconstructive surgeries, the Associated Press reported.
A municipal court judge could rule at a March 25 hearing on whether Mickey should be humanely killed at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control unit, where the dog is currently in custody.
Supporters say the campaign doesn't mean they value the dog's life more than the child's.
"This is not Kevin versus Mickey," said attorney John Schill, who is representing the dog in the court petition, the AP reported. "Having Mickey killed is not going to take away Kevin's pain or injuries. The only thing this is going to do is kill a poor, innocent dog."
Mr. Schill said he is working pro bono for The Lexus Project, a nonprofit that collects money to legally defend dogs. He said the blame in this case ultimately rests on Kevin's caretaker while his mother was at work.
"But for adults involved, this never would have happened," Mr. Schill said. "They're trying to put all the blame on Mickey."
The AP reported that support for Mickey intensified after an employee at the animal control center wrote on Facebook that Mickey was "going night night."
Center spokeswoman Melissa Gable said the employee will face administrative action but declined to elaborate.
The editorial board at the Arizona Republic came out in support of Kevin, arguing that animal activists need to get their priorities straight.
"In this conversation, Kevin must always come first. … This boy needs to be lifted up by our community. If 37,000 people like a Facebook page for a vicious dog, at least that many should support a child," the newspaper said.
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