In every state there are ridiculous laws that were enacted at one time out of necessity. For example, one may not promote a “horse tripping event” in Oklahoma, all bathtubs in Minnesota must have feet, and it is illegal for citizens in New Hampshire to relieve themselves on a Sunday while looking up. Whatever the incidents were that brought about these laws, they must have been pretty foolish.
Silly laws like these are not typically enforced. They were written into the law book many years ago, and it would be much easier for police officers to ignore them than it would to have them done away with. As we well know, not all laws are silly, but some are a little extreme. This week, it is up to a Florida judge to decide if a particular dog law in the state is unconstitutional.
Right now, Florida law states that if a burglar breaks into your home and your dog bites the bandit, he could be put down if the bite was severe enough that the burglar needs stitches or reconstructive surgery. That’s right; your dog could be euthanized for protecting your home.
A black Labrador, Padi, from Bradenton is currently on doggy death row for biting a 4-year-old child’s ear back in June. This week his fate is in the hands of a judge that will decide whether or not the law is unconstitutional based on the grounds that the owner has no chance to defend his pet. All of the chaos surrounding Padi has spurred a Sarasota lawmaker to try to change the current law.
Representative Greg Steube is sponsoring a bill that would give dog owners the opportunity to explain the circumstances leading up to a bite. If the owner can prove that their dog was protecting itself or its family or that the person who was bit was trespassing, the bill would protect the dog from euthanization. The bill passed its first trial in the legislature with undisputed support. The second hearing was this week, and there will be a third hearing scheduled very soon.
Steube is hoping to have the legislation on Governor Rick Scott’s desk by January. He elaborated on the reasons why he is backing the bill by saying:
“Most people don’t realize that the statute is so black and white. If a dog does this damage and it causes this type of injury they have to be euthanized. I thought it was absurd when I read the law.”
On June 4, 2015 a small boy and his babysitter were visiting the veterinary office that Padi’s owner, Paul Gartenberg, owns. Accounts differ on whether Padi lunged at the child when he bent down to pick up a toy by the desk that the dog was lying under or if the child lunged at Padi while trying to get him out from under the desk. Padi is currently home under house arrest.
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If the court rules that the law is unconstitutional, Padi will be released and the case will be closed. If they find that the law is constitutional, Gratenberg will have the option to either return to the hearing officer process or appeal the court’s ruling to the Second District Court of Appeal.
This subject is certainly highly debated with many people believing that a dog that bites a human should automatically be euthanized. However, I agree with the opposing side that believes that a dog’s owner should have the right to explain the situation leading up to the bite. In some instances dogs are protecting themselves or their family, and in some instances they are provoked in another way that is equally threatening. That certainly is not to say that all dog bites are provoked, some certainly are not. I believe that no matter what the situation is, the dog’s owner should have the right to defend their pet.