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Updated Mar 16, 2014 - 8:21 pm

Campaign to save dog in Arizona mauling case

PHOENIX — A dog that mauled a 4-year-old Phoenix boy has received
thousands of pleas for mercy through a Facebook campaign ahead of a court
hearing to decide his fate.

A municipal court judge could rule at a March 25 hearing on whether Mickey, a
pit bull that bit Kevin Vicente in the face, should be euthanized. Kevin
received injuries that will require, according to doctors, months and possibly
years of reconstructive surgeries.

Since the Feb. 20 attack, Mickey has become the object of a Facebook page that
has gotten more than 40,000 likes and an online petition to spare his life.

Supporters say the campaign doesn’t mean they value the dog’s life above the

“This is not Kevin versus Mickey,” said attorney John Schill, who is
representing the dog in the court petition. “Having Mickey killed is not going
to take away Kevin’s pain or injuries. The only thing this is going to do is
kill a poor, innocent dog.”

Pit bulls are viewed by some as a dangerous breed, a reputation their fans

Guadalupe Villa, who was at the scene of the attack, filed the vicious-animal
petition to have the dog put down.

“I just looked at all this as this could have been my son, and I don’t want it
to be someone else,” Villa said.

Schill said he is working pro bono at the request of The Lexus Project, a
nonprofit that collects money to legally defend canines in danger of being
euthanized. The organization has set up a trust for Mickey that has received
more than $5,600, he said.

Schill said the person watching Kevin while his mother was at work should be
held responsible.

“But for adults involved, this never would have happened,” Schill said.
“They’re trying to put all the blame on Mickey.”

Villa, whose boyfriend’s mother was baby-sitting Kevin the day of the attack,
said her friend is not to blame.

“She took amazing care of that little boy,” said Villa, who claims in the
petition that Mickey killed her dog last year.

According to Villa, Kevin picked up a bone lying on the ground near the dog,
which was kept on a chain. That’s when Mickey suddenly attacked Kevin, Villa

Villa said she can’t understand the Facebook attention and doesn’t see Mickey
as a victim.

Kevin was hospitalized at Maricopa Medical Center with a broken eye socket,
cheek bone and lower jaw bone, according to doctors.

Dr. Salvatore Lettieri, a Mayo Clinic physician and chief of cosmetic surgery
at Maricopa Medical Center, said he was able to fix the broken bones and
reattach the muscles that allow Kevin to open and close his eye.

“He still can’t open his eye. We’ll need to fix the tear duct drainage system
— that is if he makes tears,” Lettieri said.

Flor Medrano, a family friend, said Kevin continues to recover at a pediatric
hospital in Phoenix but will return to Maricopa Medical Center later this week
for more surgery on his eye.

Medrano also said a fundraising website has received about $6,000 in donations
for the boy. The Maricopa Health Foundation also established a website that has
received 50 donations.

The social media support for Mickey doesn’t indicate that people care more
about a dog than a child, Harold Herzog, a psychology professor at Western
Carolina University who studies animal interaction.

He said it’s likely that lovers of pit bulls, specifically, are driving
Mickey’s Facebook following. Pit bulls have been saddled with a bad rap — fair
or not — of being one of the most dangerous dogs. A lot of that reputation is
thanks to other mauling cases, Herzog said.

“I don’t think this reflects that people like dogs more than they like kids.
It’s a reflection that … this is yet another instance of their breed getting
blame for something it didn’t do,” Herzog said. “’Blame the deed, not the

Support for Mickey intensified after an employee at the Maricopa County Animal
Control and Care Center, which has custody of the dog, wrote on Facebook that
Mickey was “going night night.”

Melissa Gable, a center spokeswoman, said the employee will face administrative
action but declined to elaborate.


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