A pit bull that mauled a 4-year-old boy in Arizona is about to get a new lease on life, thanks to a hotshot group of doggy defenders in the New York City area.
The canine offender, named Mickey, attacked little Kevin Vicente last month, shattering the child’s eye socket, cheek bone and jaw. But the dog dodged death row on Tuesday when a Phoenix judge decided to spare its life, instead sentencing Mickey to be defanged, neutered and microchipped.
The verdict is the latest in a string of legal victories for the Lexus Project, a group that comes to the aid of dogs accused in vicious attacks against humans and other animals. The Long Island-based nonprofit claims that in the last few years it has helped save more than 100 dogs across the country deemed “dangerous” and facing euthanasia.
“All dogs deserve to live, be loved and be cared for,” said Robin Mittasch, who runs the group with her husband, Richard Rosenthal, an attorney. “We are their voice.”
The husband-and-wife team rarely passes up the chance to jump behind a high-profile case, no matter how controversial. They cut their teeth in 2009, when they went to the legal defense of a greyhound named Lexus, who was slated for the gallows after killing a Pomeranian puppy in Rhode Island. Ultimately, the couple’s legal maneuverings earned Lexus a reprieve.
They’ve been on a roll ever since, delivering dozens of victories for dogs facing certain execution. In 2013, Rosenthal and Mittasch helped rally more than 170,000 supporters behind a yellow Labrador retriever in Missouri that was going to be euthanized for biting and dragging a 7-year-old girl. And earlier this year, they won custody of a mastiff-Rhodesian mix that had killed a toddler in Nevada.
The family of Kevin Vicente filed a vicious dog court petition against Mickey in Phoenix after the pit bull ripped into the little boy’s face on Feb. 20. The boy’s family said he had picked up a bone lying on the ground near the dog, which was kept on a chain outside.
The attack crushed multiple bones in Kevin’s face and mangled his eye socket. Doctors say Kevin could have years of reconstructive surgery ahead of him.
Still, more than 66,000 animals lovers took to social media to defend Mickey and blame the dog’s owners and the child’s babysitter, who was watching him at the time of the attack. Scores more held candlelight vigils for the dog.
The Lexus Project lined up a pro bono attorney to defend the pit bull in court and also raised thousands of dollars for the dog’s legal defense. The group will serve as Mickey’s trustee while it seeks a rehabilitation shelter for the pooch.