HIGHGATE — The town selectboard heard both sides of a vicious animal attack at a public hearing Tuesday night.

 

A pitbull or pitbulls attacked 36-year-old Kelly Fiorini on Oct. 21. The attack sent her to Northwestern Medical Center (NMC), where she received 18 stitches.

 

Selectboard Chair Chris Yates began the meeting reading a message Fiorini’s husband, John, sent to the board. “My wife is lucky to be alive right now,” her husband wrote. “Those dogs tried to rip the flesh from her throat. Had she not protected herself by sacrificing the flesh on her arm, she would not be here right now.”

 

Fiorini, a job coach for Northwestern Counseling & Support Services, told Vermont State Trooper George Rodriguez she was between clients when she spotted an old friend on Park Street last Thursday, according to Rodriguez’s affidavit. Fiorini stopped for a chat and a cigarette.

 

That’s when the pitbulls attacked: two adults, Sage and Bella, and a seven-month-old pup, Tyson, the chief assailant by all accounts. Their owner, 36-year-old Mike Kelly, was standing outside his apartment building, beside the leashed dogs. He tried to pull them back when they charged Fiorini.

 

Instead, both he and Fiorini became tangled in the dogs’ leashes, and were pulled to the ground. Tyson, a rescue dog for whom Kelly has tried to find another home, bit Fiorini on her left forearm, shoulder and stomach. Fiorini said at last night’s hearing that Sage also attacked her, which Kelly disputed.

 

Fiorini noted that Kelly and her friend tried to protect her during the attack. “Mike was trying to pull them off me,” she said. “But what happened was my leg got tangled up, and I couldn’t get away.

 

“It was just really scary,” Fiorini said, in tears. “The hospital lady told me — I wear layers and layers of Spanx, because I had a gastric bypass surgery — and so if I wasn’t wearing those Spanx, [she told me] my stomach would have been ripped off. I was just thinking if it was a child, or if I was a smaller person, I would have probably been dead.”

 

“I feel awful about what happened,” Kelly said. “I won’t try to justify it. I feel awful about it. I haven’t slept for days, all nerves… It’s one of those freak accidents that happens. I was rolling around in dog [expletive] with my leg tied up too.”

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