Florida Dog Bite Law Declared Unconstitutional After Padi The Dog Is Freed

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

December 18, 2015

Padi the Lab mix was sentenced to death four months ago, but as of Thursday, December 17, 2015, he no longer has to fear for his life. Ambassador of his dad’s veterinary office and greeter of all incoming patients, Padi was always there to provide much-needed smiles and reassurance to frightened animals—now he can return to where he belongs.


On June 4, 2015, Padi bit a child visiting the clinic with his babysitter on the ear, resulting in stitches and reconstructive surgery. The accounts of the event—during which Padi’s owner (vet Dr. Gartenberg) was present—are ambiguous on whether Padi lunged at the boy or the boy lunged at Padi. The majority agree that Padi was cornered by the child while the two were playing with the dog’s toys.

Padi tennis ball

Under the then-current Florida law, a dog—like Padi—who had never bitten anyone before, would automatically be sentenced to death after causing severe injury. He would be killed without regard to the circumstances because he was not previously declared a “dangerous dog.”

In other words, Dr. Gartenberg could not argue provocation, and there were be no defense allowed for Padi at all.

free padi

Padi was seized and spent three months locked in a kennel behind a sign which read: WARNING, BITE DOG, DO NOT WALK.

“Padi is not mean or aggressive in any way,” read a post on the “Free Padi” Facebook page. It continued:

He is a sweet, silly, lovable black lab that was rescued from the streets with a collar deeply embedded into his neck, some time ago. He’s been through enough in his life, he needs to go home now.

Padi was eventually released “on bond” until the court decided the constitutionality of the the Florida statute in Manatee County.

Judge Andrew Owens’ ruling as of Thursday is as follows:

The court concludes and declares that [the law] is unconstitutional because the statute bears no rational relationship to the legislator’s otherwise legitimate interest in protecting people from dangerous dogs who attack without provocation […] and is therefore arbitrary and unduly oppressive.

Owens also included that the purpose of the original legislation was to protect people from from “unprovoked attacks,” which was not the case here. Thus, Owens declared:

The Court finds it illogical and inconsistent that an owner of a dog facing a dangerous dog investigation and classification under [the dangerous dog law] may assert certain defenses such as provocation, defense of a family member or person from an unjustified attack, but an owner of a dog subjected to the provisions of [the severe dog bite statute] enjoys no such defenses, notwithstanding the statute’s constitutional validity, to prevent that statutory mandated execution of their dog.

In a courtroom full of Padi’s supporters who donned their “FREE PADI” shirts or wore the color blue in recognition of their support, no one was unhappy to hear the news. The most anticipated post on Padi’s Facebook page had finally made an appearance.

The wait is over!!! PADI IS FOREVER FREE!!!

Posted by Free PADI on Thursday, December 17, 2015

“I had to believe in my heart that this was going to end well for Padi,” Gartenberg told the Bradenton Herald. “But until you get that final ruling, you don’t know.”

padi and gartenberg

From now on, Padi will no longer get free reign of the vet clinic to avoid anything like this ever happening again, but he’s more than happy to be back. “Common sense prevailed today,” said County Commissioner Carol Whitmore. “This is another county in the state of Florida that determined state law is unconstitutional.”

After enduring a particularly tragic past and then being torn from the human who has saved him yet again, Padi deserves to live in safety and comfort. Congratulations to everyone who helped save this dog’s life and supported the cause—he has you to thank for his future.

H/t Bradenton Herald, Facebook/Free Padi

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

December 18, 2015

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A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.