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Pro bono for pit bull: Judge appoints lawyer for dog

A judge in Georgia has appointed a lawyer to defend a pit bull that could be euthanized for attacking a neighbor's 5-year-old child, a court official said on Friday.

The dog's owner surrendered the animal, named Kno, to Effingham County, north of Savannah, last summer after it was accused of severely injuring the child, assistant county attorney Elizabeth Pavlis told Reuters.

Lawyer Claude Kicklighter, appointed by Superior Court Judge William Woodrum Jr to represent the dog, said he was still learning details of the case.

"All I can tell you is that the judge appointed me," he said. "I really don't know what the issues are."

According to SavannahNow.com, the dog attacked the little boy July 24 while he was playing with another child inside a neighbor’s home. One of the dog’s owners, Julie Long, stopped the attack by luring the dog outside.

Pavlis said a hearing was scheduled this month to determine whether the dog should be euthanized. Kicklighter is doing the legal work at no charge to the county.

Bruce Wagman, a San Francisco attorney specializing in animal cases, said it was unusual for judges to appoint attorneys to represent animals.

Wagman knew of only two similar cases. One involved dogs owned by NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges that he participated in an interstate dog fighting enterprise.

Vick spent 19 months in federal prison and is now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles football team.

Pavlis said Woodrum was not required to appoint an attorney for the dog and did it "just to cover his bases, I would say."

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman David Ehsanipoor told SavannahNow.com that the victim is still recovering.

“He is improving and is better,” Ehsanipoor told the web site. “He still has scarring and the right side of his face is paralyzed. He may be having some more surgery in the next six to eight weeks, but he is back at school and recovering.”

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