Vicious attack leaves owner injured, his dogs dead

Dogo Argentinos were to have been muzzled after previous attack

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – It wasn’t the first time a neighbor’s dogs injured someone in one Fort Lauderdale neighborhood.

Thomas Hartwig said what happened to him and his two Italian greyhounds could have been avoided if the owner of the dogs had followed orders. Back in February, Robert Harrington was attacked by the Dogo Argentinos and suffered serious injuries. It was then that the owner of the dangerous dogs was told to have the animals muzzled when they were out in public.

But last week, when Hartwig was walking his dogs in the area of Northeast 17th Court and Eighth Avenue early in the morning, a similar but more vicious, attack happened.

Hartwig ended up with staples in his neck and his two Italian greyhounds were so severely injured they both died.

They were more than pets to him. “They were my boys,” Hartwig said.

The rescued Italian greyhounds were named Giovanni and Luigi and Luigi even had a connection to WPLG. “He was the Pet of the Week on Channel 10 and I ended up getting him,” Hartwig said.

But years of faithful companionship came to a tragic end last Thursday.

“I just I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Hartwig said. Hartwig said the dogs that attacked him were on a leash.

“These are pretty big dogs. 80 to 100 pounds a piece. And he had three at the same time.” Hartwig said he and his dogs were heading home when it happened.

“I don’t know if he lost control or they pulled him, but they came toward us and one of them grabbed Giovanni.”

As Hartwig lunged to save Giovanni, he said a second dog went for his neck while the third dog went after Luigi. “At some point I said, ‘Your dog is killing me,’ " Hartwig said.

He said the owner then came over and kicked the dog with his foot. “And he let go.”

Hartwig was taken to the hospital where he had 17 staples put into his neck to close his wounds.

His two dogs were rushed to the vet but it was too late.

“I found out that — this is where I choke up — that their injuries were too severe,” Hartwig said, holding back tears.

Hartwig said the owner knew that his dogs should have been wearing muzzles.

"And they weren’t. And they killed my dogs. And, frankly, they almost killed me.”

Hartwig said there is an effort by Broward County Animal Control to deem the dogs as dangerous under the law.

The breed of dog, Dogo Argentino, is banned in Australia, Argentina, the United Kingdom, and Denmark. In Florida, there are no bans on any specific breed of dog, but state law puts restrictions on a “dangerous dog.”

  • A dog that has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property; or
  • A dog that has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property; or
  • A dog that has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority.

Local 10 has followed up with Broward County Animal Control to find out about that status and when a hearing is schedule along with what might happen next.

About the Authors:

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local