Dog owner recounts attack that killed his mom and sent him to hospital

Joe Varanese of Margate is still struggling to figure out why Smokey, the rescue dog he adopted three weeks ago, suddenly snapped last week, mauling his 84-year-old mother to death.

MARGATE, Fla. – Overwhelmed by grief and guilt, Joe Varanese is still struggling to figure out why the rescue dog he adopted three weeks ago suddenly snapped.

Smokey, a 5-year-old American Bulldog attacked Varanese and mauled to death his 84-year old mother, Carolyn Varanese, inside their Margate home Friday night.

“It happened on my watch. It was something I brought into the house,” Varanese said Wednesday in an exclusive — and emotional — interview with Local 10 News.

Varanese, 57, was helping his wheelchair-bound mom from the bathroom when the pet charged.

“We were just trying to go to the bathroom and he just went berserk,” Varanese recalled.

“I flipped the dog over, slammed him on the ground — that didn’t help, he came back stronger. I hit him with the leg of the wheelchair — it didn’t even faze him,” Varanese said.

Varanese said during the effort to fight off the dog, his socks lost traction in a pool of blood.

“I fell down on the floor, but I did get up and that’s when I started beating that dog to no avail,” he said.

While Carolyn lay dead, police and paramedics were called and Joe Varanese was rushed to the hospital.

He suffered multiple bite wounds.

“He dug in here on my arm,” Varanese said. “I got bit in the face, on the chin, my eye right there.”

Asked if Smokey showed any signs of aggression before that, Varanese said “never.”

Varanese is out of the hospital now, but he hasn’t returned to the home that he shared with his mother, saying the trauma from the ordeal is a recurring nightmare.

Smokey, who was legally adopted from an animal shelter, was quarantined by Broward County Animal Services, and he has since been euthanized.

“That dog should not be alive,” Varanese said.

About the Author:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.