July 11, 2007
Dog Attack, In Montauk, "A Bloody Mess"
A Montauk man was fighting for his life yesterday after a brutal mauling by three neighborhood dogs.
Dr. Lawrence Duca was in his yard on Flamingo Court last Thursday working in his garden when three American Bulldogs pushed under a fence from an abutting property and attacked the 79-year-old man.
As of press time, Duca had undergone two surgeries and may need more. His condition was particularly worrisome because he'd recently had bypass surgery and was taking blood-thinning medication. Town Animal Shelter Supervisor Betsy Bambrick described the victim's status as "very precarious." This is the worst dog attack she's ever seen, she said.
"He's a diabetic," said the victim's daughter, Diane Dacuk. "It's infected really bad. His right leg was bitten down to the bone and tendons. The lacerations are horrible, I don't know if he'll be able to recover."
Neighbors were in an uproar, claiming they had warned of such an incident month's ago. Thomas Byrne spent the day posting flyers around the modest Montauk neighborhood. The signs warned community members of a dog on Mulford Avenue that remained at home following a vicious attack last week. "We Should Not Wait For Another Attack!!" the signs read. "Demand to Have ALL Pit Bulls Removed!!" He said Monday that it's "absurd" authorities will allow a fourth dog that was not involved in the attack to remain at home.
Bambrick said the victim was able to swing his shovel to fend off the animals. Still, he sustained serious injuries, and very deep puncture wounds. "He lost some meat from his leg," she said.
The attack was witnessed by Dacuk's two sons, ages six and nine, and her mother. "Thank God they weren't outside. The bites my father got would have taken my boys' legs off." Duca eventually managed to fight his way into the house and waited for help. "They were in shock," his daughter related.
Bambrick said the dogs were still on the property when she arrived, weaving through crowds of onlookers and neighbors to get to the scene. The animals were captured without incident and remained in custody. They will be euthanized, after being cleared by Suffolk County Health laws. On Monday morning Bambrick said the dogs' owner Mike Olivieri originally agreed to put the dogs down, but he has had a change of heart since then.
"He was surprised they were capable of doing this," said Bambrick.
Neighbors painted a decidedly different picture – of an arrogant owner who ignored their pleas to corral what they knew to be vicious animals.
An attack was "inevitable," neighbor Sandra Ebsen said. "The whole block is up in arms."
Sean Jacoby, who lives next door to Olivieri, recalled a verbal confrontation over the dogs two years ago. At the time, he said, they ran loose and would come into his yard to defecate. One of the dogs would stare at his six-year-old daughter and growl, he said. After he chased the dog out of his yard, the neighbors "had words."
After court Monday afternoon, however, Bambrick said neither Olivieri nor his attorney stated the desire to have the dogs put down on the record. A hearing will be held next Monday.
Even if the attack hadn't occurred, Olivieri, who breeds the dogs, was due to show up to answer a slew of summonses relating to barking dogs and breeding without proper permits, Bambrick revealed.
Complaints about the dogs began last March, the animal shelter supervisor said. "It's not that people complained and we didn't do anything. They complained and we did as much as the law allows us to do," she said. "We can't take a dog based on people's fear something is going to happen. We can't anticipate an attack when the dog hasn't shown us anything of that nature."
Eventually the neighbors whose properties abutted Olivieri's all erected fences to keep out the animals. But before then, Jacoby said it wasn't unusual to see the animals chasing pedestrians. "It was not a good situation," he summarized. "No one liked those dogs."
Dacuk said despite statements to the contrary she had heard Olivieri is trying to get the dogs back. "That can't happen," she stated. "We need to get the word out. People need to sign petitions."
"Why can't they impound all those dogs?" Byrne asked Monday. "We're in a serious situation." Empathetic, Bambrick emphasized that, like humans, dogs are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Byrne was further distressed to learn there isn't just one dog left in the house. She recently had a litter of six puppies. The bitch had nine in her first litter, two of whom were involved in the attack.
Under Suffolk County Health law, dogs can't be euthanized if they might be carrying rabies. Because the three dogs in custody lacked up-to-date shots, they must be quarantined for 10 days to ensure they are not carrying rabies.
As of press time, the victim's son-in-law, Stanley Dacuk, reported that Duca is expected to survive, barring complications. He'll be in the hospital for "quite a while." Right now, "he's unable to walk," Dacuk said.
Olivieri did not return for calls for comment by press time.