After a long, emotionally-fueled debate in Phoenix court, a judge has ruled that a pit bull who bit a young child earlier this year will not be euthanized as many expected, but will instead spend the rest of his life in jail.
Last February, 4-year-old Kevin Vincente was under the care of a babysitter when he wandered into the yard where the caretaker's dog, named Mickey, was kept chained. Mickey then attacked the boy, causing serious injuries to his face.
Both the victim's family and the animal's owners requested that Mickey be put down after the incident, but animal-advocates intervened to petition and raise funds for legal defense to spare the dog's life. Mickey's supporters argued that the pit bull had responded violently due to the circumstances in which he had been kept, and that the onus for the attack fell more squarely on his owners who had allowed the child to enter his vicinity knowing full-well that he was not properly socialized.
According to AZ Central, an animal behaviorist testified that Mickey appeared to have suffered abuse and had been conditioned to be hyper-territorial from being confined to a chain.
Municipal Court Judge Deborah Griffith, who presided over the case, declared Mickey to be a "vicious" animal, but agreed that the dog was not wholly to blame.
"This is a tragedy. This is just horrible for this child, oh my goodness," she said. "But I think there are a lot of adults responsible."
Assistant County Manager Rodrigo Silva agreed, arguing that the attack was not the dog's fault alone.
"If we, as pet owners, take the time to think about our lifestyle and the type of breed we're attempting to acquire, then euthanasia will not be a problem for (dog with) aggression," he said. "It's simply uneducated or uniformed selections of dogs that cause these animals to find themselves in a situation where they... hurt someone."
Considering the nuances of the case, Griffith spared Mickey from being put down, but ordered that the dog be neutered, defanged, and sent to live at an animal shelter for the rest of his life, without an option for adoption.
Yesterday, Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio offered to take custody of the dog to live in a "no-kill" shelter operated on the grounds of the county jail.