Richard Rosenthal is a lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping defend dogs at all costs, which has made him many human enemies. A piece by the New York Times explores Rosenthal’s career and how he deals with the hate that his career brings him.
His very first case was a greyhound in Rhode Island named Lexus. The dog was accused of killing a Pomeranian in a dog park, and the prosecution was asking for the death penalty. Rosenthal fought every legal means to free the greyhound, and eventually, Lexus was granted a stay of execution, as long as he took Lexus out of the state by the most direct root as possible.
After his first breakthrough case with Lexus, Rosenthal and his wife founded the Lexus Project in 2009. It is a nonprofit that provides legal representation for dogs that are ordered to be euthanized.
Now, Rosenthal has been an animal attorney for over a decade. He takes on cases regarding custody, malpractice from veterinary clinics, and even defends dangerous dogs. Because of that, he often enrages local officials, animal control officers, and district attorneys.
Rosenthal uses the same legal argument every time. He acknowledges that it is a tragedy when a dog injures or kills another dog or person, but he says that all circumstances have to be considered before the dog is euthanized. Many times, this has led to death threats at Rosenthal, but he doesn’t let himself get discouraged.
Over time, Rosenthal and colleagues have expressed distrust for law enforcement.
“All of a sudden it came to a point where, invariably, when a cop shoots a dog, their first description of the dog, no matter what the dog is, is that it was a pit bull,” Mr. Rosenthal said. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, law enforcement kills 10,000 pet dogs yearly. Animal control officers, who are considered part of law enforcement, are often in low-paying and low-level positions. Animal control officers have a large influence on what happens when a dog bite is reported. They are often called in as a primary defense witness when a dog is ordered to be euthanized.
“Let’s get serious,” he said. “Nobody becomes an animal control officer for the glory or the money or the great amount of respect.”
There are many other options for dogs that have bitten or attacked someone other than euthanasia. There is no way to know if these dogs are acting out of anger or if it is just a situational response. We need to explore and make other options available besides resorting to killing them.
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