Dog put down after attacking Margate man and his elderly mother

Smokey was not one of the breeds banned in Miami-Dade, where he was adopted

Smokey, a 5-year old American bulldog who had just been rescued from a shelter, killed a wheelchair bound woman and sent her 57-year-old son to the hospital in a vicious attack at their home.

MARGATE, Fla. – Smokey, the 5-year old American bulldog that mauled an 84-year-old woman to death and sent her son to the hospital, has been humanely euthanized.

Joe Varanese, who adopted the rescue dog just three weeks earlier, spoke exclusively to Local 10 News on Wednesday about the harrowing attack inside the home he shared with his mother.

“If I had a gun I woulda killed him,” Varanese, 57, said. “I would’ve. He killed a human being. He should never be out there in society.”

Smokey had been quarantined by Broward County Animal Services since the attack last Friday, and the decision was made Wednesday night to put the animal down.

Varanese adopted Smokey from the animal shelter in Miami-Dade County, where the selling and owning pit bulls has been banned countywide for three decades.

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.

On the agency’s website there are multiple American bulldogs and mixes still up for adoption. That’s legal because, animal advocates say, these breeds are often unfairly and incorrectly grouped into the umbrella term “pit bulls.”

The breeds specifically banned by Miami-Dade include American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and mixes of each.

Dahlia Canes, who runs the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation, has been fighting Miami-Dade’s ban for years.

“When you start generalizing anything in general, that’s our first mistake right there,” she says. “Especially with dog breeds.”

She says it’s a matter of time before the ban is removed and notes that there are no similar outright pit bull bans on the books in Broward County.

In fact, state law prohibits municipalities from creating any new breed-specific legislation.

The state and counties do have dangerous dog ordinances that outline how to handle an animal involved in deadly attacks, like the one in Margate that severely injured Varanese and claimed the life of his elderly, wheelchair-bound mother.

“I want to express my condolences to the entire family — this was a tragic event to everyone involved,” Canes said. “Dogs don’t just simply snap like that. That dog was a rescue dog. Who knows what that dog went through [before being adopted], what that dog was trained to do. Something triggered it.”

Varanese said that in the three weeks he had the dog he didn’t see any signs of aggression.

“I didn’t see any signs at all that he was vicious or violent,” Varanese said. “He hardly ever barked.”

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.