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Phoenix judge who spared life of dog that mauled boy will decide where animal will live

A Phoenix judge who spared the life of a pit bull that mauled a 4-year-old boy earlier this year was expected to decide Tuesday where the animal will spend the rest of its life.

Municipal Court Judge Deborah Griffin had declared the dog vicious at a hearing a month ago but declined to have him euthanized after animal-rights advocates came to its defense. Instead, she ordered the dog — named Mickey — to be neutered and defanged and gave the Lexus Project, a New York-based animal-rights group and the dog's trustee, 30 days to find a rehabilitation center or shelter to take him.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has offered to house the dog at a no-kill shelter operated by his office. The sheriff, who is known nationally for his tough stance on immigration and whose office regularly investigates animal abuse cases, is expected to testify at the hearing.

Attorney John Schill, a lawyer who argued on behalf of the dog, said putting Mickey in the sheriff's shelter for the rest of his life is an acceptable option.

The trust will pick up the costs of caring for the dog, Schill said.

The Feb. 20 attack left 4-year-old Kevin Vicente with a broken eye socket and jaw, and the boy has months, if not years, of reconstructive surgery ahead of him.

The case touched off a polarizing Internet debate on mercy, blame and animal violence, leading to candlelight vigils and riling up thousands of animal lovers on social media who placed blame with the dog's owners and child's baby sitter. Donations and gifts from around the world have flowed in for Kevin since the dog bit the boy in the face.

A woman who says her dog was previously killed by Mickey filed a vicious-dog court petition that started the court case.

Animal advocates say both the dog and boy are victims and a baby sitter watching the child was negligent in letting him play near the animal. They also argued the owner was fostering aggression by keeping the dog chained up.

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