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Dog Mauls Elderly Woman to Death in South Florida

Joe Varanese was helping his elderly mother go to the bathroom when tragedy struck. Varanese’s five-year old American Bulldog, Smokey, attacked Varanese’s 84-year-old mother, going “berserk” according to the owner. Smokey was a rescue dog that Varanese adopted only three weeks before the horrific attack. Varanese lived with his mother, Carolyn, in Margate.

According to, the owner fought off the dog as best he could. He flipped it onto his back and even struck it with the leg of the wheelchair—all to no avail. The dog continued to attack the elderly woman, and Varanese himself also sustained injuries when he fell. He had to be taken to the hospital for treatment of multiple bite wounds to his arm and face. He ended up staying overnight to recover from his physical injuries. His mother, unfortunately, died at the scene.

No Previous Signs of Aggression

What makes the story disturbing is that Varanese told the media he had never seen the dog act aggressively before, so he had no way of knowing the animal would be dangerous to adopt. The dog was legally put up for adoption by the nearby animal shelter. Many people adopt rescue animals, expecting them to be tame. Unfortunately, a dog can turn on an owner and cause serious injuries.

According to a friend, the animal seemed to be getting along well with the Varaneses. The elderly victim had even allowed the dog to sleep with her at night in her bed. But when the animal attacked, it kept going for the woman’s jugular, ultimately leading to her death.

Your Right to Compensation for a Dog Attack

If you are attacked by someone’s dog, the good news is that you do not need to show that the animal had a history of being vicious to recover compensation. Under Florida’s law, a dog owner is strictly liable for any dog attacks, provided the victim was attacked in public or some other place he had a legal right to be. Of course, there are exceptions if the victim provoked the dog or if the victim’s negligence contributed to their injuries. Contributory negligence reduces the owner’s liability proportionally.

If you need assistance after a dog bite attack, please contact Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein LLP today. Our Miami premises liability lawyers can seek compensatory damages for all your losses, including medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Call us today, 305-371-2692, to schedule a free consultation.