Fighting for her life against three pit bulls, Shirleen Lucas screamed for help.
Soon, she heard the voice of a woman across the street, possibly yelling into a cell phone.
“She was saying ‘there’s pit bulls out here attacking this lady and they’re trying to kill her,’” Lucas recalled Wednesday evening at her Schenectady home after her release from the hospital. “I heard that and I knew there was hope, help was on the way.
“I still continued to fight so they couldn’t do more damage.”
Lucas, 58, was attacked by the dogs at about 3:30 a.m. Monday on Hulett Street, as she was out running late-night errands, including going to an ATM.
Lucas often made the trips late to save time during the day for her 8-year-old granddaughter, Amaria. Lucas is the mother of four grown children, but she watches after Amaria. Amaria was safely at home during the attack.
“I thank God she wasn’t with me that night,” Lucas said.
Lucas was saved as arriving police used a Taser on the most aggressive dog, getting it off her. When they did that, the other two dogs retreated.
“I heard the Taser and I started to praying,” Lucas said. “I’d been screaming for God knows how long.”
Two of the three dogs have since been destroyed, police said Wednesday. The third is expected to be. The owner of the dogs, 21-year-old Jasmine L. Tirado, was also located and issued tickets.
Lucas sustained injuries from head to toe. Doctors used nearly 200 stitches to close her wounds, with staples required on her head. The stitches criss-cross her forehead and elsewhere. She lost sections of both ears. Her arms were bandaged, as well as parts of her legs. She spent more than two days at Albany Medical Center.
Her appearance is in stark contrast to a portrait Lucas displayed, showing a smiling mother with shoulder-length hair, a necklace with a cross around her neck. She said she is relying on her faith to get her through.
Lucas spoke to The Daily Gazette Wednesday evening at her Hamilton Hill home, several blocks from the scene of the attack. With her was one of her grown children, Darcelle Lucas, who lives around the corner.
Darcelle recalled getting the call early that morning from police. Her mother was able to relay her daughter’s phone number.
Her mother had been attacked, and it was serious, she recalled the officer saying.
“I broke down a little bit,” Darcelle Lucas recalled. “All these questions were shooting out. What happened? When? Where? Why?”
Darcelle made it to the hospital and saw her mother. The ferocity of the attack was evident. All she could see at first was her mother’s face and part of her leg. Darcelle struggled to control her reflexive response.
The dogs had pulled up a large section of skin from her mother’s forehead, now stitched back in place.
“That was it, I was gagging. I was trying not to, but seeing someone like that — it’s just beyond me,” she said.
Lucas said doctors have told her they will do everything they can to restore her appearance, including her damaged ears. She goes back in a week to allow doctors to check on her stitches. She said she could know more then about what they’re going to do.
She also has insurance, but she knows it won’t cover everything. To that end, she said she expects to file a lawsuit.
Police take dogs
The owner of the dogs, Tirado, of 347 Hulett St., came out of her house to get the dogs, police said.
Tirado soon surrendered the dogs to the city’s animal control officer. Two of the dogs were euthanized, and the third is expected to be put to death as well, after an observation period. Samples from the dogs are expected to be sent for rabies testing.
Tirado was issued an appearance ticket, accused of having one unlicensed dog, along with three appearance tickets for harboring dangerous dogs. She is to appear in City Court on those charges Sept. 12.
Lucas and her daughter each have their own ideas of what should happen to dogs and dog owners in such cases.
Lucas believes that pit bulls should be banned completely. “It’s not a one-time thing,” Lucas said. “We need a new law about dogs, pit bulls should be outlawed, period.”
If that couldn’t happen, daughter Darcelle said owners shown to have had dangerous dogs in the past should be banned from having them again.
“Once you show that you can’t control your dog, you don’t need to be able to have any type of what they would call attack dog, especially a pit bull,” Darcelle said.
A similar attack happened in August 2002, when two city girls were attacked by a pit bull on Union Street. One girl required stitches to close wounds, the other did not.
The owner of that dog eventually pleaded guilty to having an unlicensed animal and agreed to pay $2,000 in restitution to cover the girls’ medical bills. His dog eventually was destroyed.