Lawyers ask Bush to save dog from death penalty
By EDIE GROSS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2001
His appeals nearly exhausted, Beethoven may now depend on a call from the governor.
Attorneys for the 145-pound Great Dane, sentenced to doggy death row five years ago after biting a child, are asking Jeb Bush to grant the dog clemency.
If Bush agrees to the unusual request, it would not be a precedent-setting puppy pardon. In 1994, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman pardoned Taro, an Akita facing death for biting a 10-year-old.
Whitman did so under a New Jersey law that lets the governor stay or waive forfeitures of property -- in that case, a four-legged piece of property with brown and white fur. In a five-page letter to Bush on Thursday, attorney Bob Merkle of Tampa urged the governor to use a similar Florida law to spare Beethoven's life.
"This case is a travesty of justice," Merkle wrote. "It appears imminent that the dog will be killed absent a grant of clemency-like relief from yourself"
The governor's press office, flummoxed by the request, had no comment Thursday.
The pooch landed in the pokey in September 1995 after biting a 4-year-old Palm Harbor girl's face. She had wandered into the garage where Beethoven was chained.
Pinellas County Animal Control ruled the dog should be killed, but years of appeals have spared Beethoven so far. The caged canine's legal team insists that Beethoven did not attack the girl but instead probably bit down on her head instinctively after she grabbed his ear.
"He's not the dangerous dog he's made out to be," said attorney David Plante.
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