- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—MANATEE — For the past year and a half, Michael Harvey with K9 Coach said he has been training Padi, a male lab mix, who has become one of the best dogs in his class.

“He never bit anyone,” Harvey said at Tuesday’s Manatee County Commission meeting. “That was all for nothing. You have control of this. …Your county is on a slippery slope. You are going to be deemed the unfriendly dog county.”

Harvey was one of almost 20 people who spoke, pleading for the county to free Padi, a dog who bit one-third of a 4-year-old child’s ear off in June. More than 100 people came out to Tuesday’s meeting, voicing that Padi be freed.

On June 4, Manatee County Animal Services took Padi into custody for a dangerous dog investigation after the incident at Pet Clinic, 714 60th St. Ct. E., Bradenton, when the veterinary clinic owner’s dog bit the child’s left ear, according to the incident report.

A hearing officer has until the end of July to determine whether the facts of what happened fit the Florida Dangerous Dog Law.

The statute states that the dog involved in a dangerous attack that causes severe injury should be immediately confiscated by an “animal control authority” and “destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner.” According to the statute, severe injury is defined as “any physical injury that results in broken bones, multiple bites or disfiguring lacerations requiring sutures or reconstructive surgery.”

But due to the fact that the current law does not offer the opportunity for the hearing officer to consider the motive of the dog and whether a person was “tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog,” Commissioner Carol Whitmore is asking that her fellow commissioners vote to approve adding a revision to the statute concerning attack or bite by dangerous dog to the county’s legislative platform.

“The animal communities have a lot of power,” Whitmore said. “This is going to affect the whole state. … I really think it’s time.”

The investigation into Padi comes more than a year after two dogs, Buck and Bill, were put down for biting a 13-year-old boy three times. The two Australian shepherds were seized by Manatee County Animal Services shortly after the attack on Dec. 24, 2012.

Lee County resident Belen Brisco, a certified animal cruelty officer, said at Tuesday’s meeting that other counties nationally are watching Manatee County.

“It pains me with what is happening in Manatee County,” Brisco said. “Commissioners, you are our policy makers. …You have the ability to make a change in Padi’s life.”

Lori Gurley, who is the administrator of the Free Padi Facebook page, said the page has gotten almost 12,000 likes in 11 days.

“Every country in the world is watching the case,” she said. “You are being watched, Manatee County. Do the right thing.”

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said if they could bring the case to the county commission, “I would assure you we would and it wouldn’t be happening, but we can’t. We don’t have the authority over the courts.”

Baugh asked the public to work with commissioners, instead of against them.

“We are asking you work with us and help us,” Baugh said. “Please contact the governor. Contact our legislators. We can’t change the courts and the statutes. We don’t make them. We can only enforce them by state law. … I am hoping we can get this changed as quickly as possible.”

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at [email protected] Follow her on [email protected]_Aronson.


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