In June of 2015, in Brandenton, FL, a dog named Padi was roaming loose at the vet clinic belonging to his owner, Dr. Paul Gartenberg. A four year old child entered the business with his babysitter, and (according to Padi’s owner) cornered Padi under a desk, at which point the dog bit the child severely enough to removed part of his ear. (link)
And so, in compliance with local law, Padi was sentenced to die.
Gartenberg fought the ruling and eventually, Padi was returned to him.
Now, Padi has bitten again – this time, a young puppy in training as a service dog. The dog approached Padi excitedly (who was, again, roaming loose at the vet clinic) and Padi bit him hard on the nose, leaving shallow lacerations. Many who advocated for the dog after his first incident are now questioning what they believed.
Truly, though, I have only one question:
How many more times will Padi’s owner set him up to fail?
To me, Padi’s story isn’t about a vicious dog. It’s not about whether he can be redeemed. It’s about a dog that been set up to fail, a dog who’s owner seems to only advocate for him AFTER the bite has happened and the damage has been done. It’s about the senseless and unnecessary risks undertaken by someone who should know better.
Dr. Gartenberg, owner of both Padi and Gartenberg’s Pet Clinic, where both bite incidents occurred, made a series of extremely poor choices on Padi’s behalf:
1.) Roaming the clinic: In this trainer’s opinion, it is NEVER appropriate to have a loose dog in the lobby of a veterinary clinic. NEVER. It doesn’t matter how “friendly” the dog is, others may not be and animals will be animals. Allowing Padi to roam loose created an uncontrolled situation that is inherently unsafe. This was unfair to Padi, and doomed him to fail.
2.) Allowing a child to pressure Padi: Assuming Gartenberg’s description of the incidents proceeding Padi’s first bite are accurate, Gartenberg and staff allowed a child to harass Padi to his breaking point. To be clear, this is not the child’s fault – and it’s not the dog’s fault either! This is what adult supervision is for! When a child makes our dog uncomfortable, it is our duty to protect both dog and child by ending the interaction. Staff should have protected Padi by stepping in between him and the child long before Padi escalated to a bite! Sadly for Padi and the child involved, no one was there to save them from themselves.
3.) Allowing Padi to roam the clinic after the first bite: I’ve already said I think it’s irresponsible to have ANY dog roaming the floor freely at a vet clinic, let alone a dog with a serious bite history. Provoked or not, any dog that has seriously injured someone needs to be handled with certain precautions, and should never be allowed uncontrolled contact with random members of the public. It’s unfair to the dog, unfair to the public, and should be a matter of common sense.
4.) Allowing Padi contact with clinic patrons: If Gartenberg insists that Padi return to roaming the floor, some simple precautions could be taken to prevent Padi from having the kind of interactions he’s uncomfortable with. Many adult dogs do not enjoy being rushed by “friendly” (read: rude!) puppy. Why did no one call Padi away from this approaching puppy? Why, why on EARTH wasn’t someone protecting Padi from the things that make him bite? Why did no one advocate for him?
Dogs like Padi are rarely vicious. Instead, they are the direct result of human failure. Dr. Gartenberg has spent a lot of time and effort advocating for Padi – but only after letting him down. Trying to protect your dog after a bite incident isn’t an acceptable substitute for preventing those bites in the first place.
Imagine a different reality where Padi was securely gated behind the desk with the staff, or in a secure pen in the back of the facility. He could have his favorite bed, some toys, a bully stick to chew on, interaction with the staff – all the comforts a dog could ever need. Interaction with the public could be limited, increasing Padi’s comfort and keeping everyone safe. Or, Padi could simply stay home while his owner was at work – as do millions of dogs everyday. Boring, maybe, but safe for everyone.
Please, readers, please make safe, sensible choices for your dogs. If they have a history of biting when threatened, stop allowing them to be threatened! We have a duty to be their advocates and protectors before the bite happens.
No charges have been filed as a result of Padi’s second bite incident. However, if Gartenberg continues to subject Padi to situations he cannot handle, he is doomed to bite again.
Eventually, a preventable bite is going to cost Padi his life. When that day comes, please remember him as a dog that was not “bad,” but rather a good dog with an owner who let him down.