A case that sparked anger across the Internet, divided Phoenix, Az. residents and renewed scrutiny of pit bulls ended when “Mickey” the dog was sentenced to life behind bars at the Maricopa County Jail’s no-kill animal shelter.
The dog had been in the custody of Maricopa County since February, when 4-year-old Kevin Vicente walked from his babysitter’s home into a neighbor’s yard and attempted to take a bone from the dog’s mouth. The dog responded by attacking the boy, leaving the child with a broken jaw and eye socket.
Dr. Jeffrey Salamone of Maricopa Medical Center told news reporters that a large amount of the child’s face had been ripped from forehead to jaw.
The injuries will require a number of extensive surgeries to repair the damage.
Although experts said that both the child and the dog were both doing what they naturally do, Mickey was sent to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control until a hearing could be held on whether the dog should be euthanized.
Animal rights activists were outraged, placing blame for the attack on an inattentive babysitter as well as the owner for keeping the dog chained up. The case took on a life of its own on social media, with a petition to save the dog drawing over 67,000 signatures and spawning a Facebook page devoted to sparing Mickey’s life.
Municipal Court Judge Deborah Griffith said that several people shared responsibility for the incident, pointing out that there was a “Beware of Dog” sign on the fence but the gate was open and children were allowed to play around the dog.
The boy’s mother was puzzled by the concern over Mickey’s fate.
“It disturbed me at first that they placed more value on an animal than on a child, and that made me feel very bad,” Vicente told The Arizona Republic through a Spanish interpreter. “If they don’t care about (Kevin), well, I do.”
In March, the judge chose not to euthanize Mickey, but declared him vicious and ruled the dog must be neutered, defanged, microchipped and never adopted out.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio then offered to place Mickey at his no-kill shelter located in the First Avenue Jail and agreed that no taxpayer money would be used to train inmates on how to handle the dog.