Lisa Urso’s love of animals was profound.
On her birthdays, she’d encourage family and friends to donate to fundraisers benefiting the ASPCA and other animal rescue groups.
“She was an amazing soul,” says Jayne Petty, a friend of 25 years. “She put her animals above everyone and called them her ‘four legged children’.”
That’s why it’s so difficult for them to grasp how Urso lost her life – mauled to death by her pet French bulldog mix in her home.
Urso, 52, was found unresponsive on the back patio of her home in Fox Lake, 55 miles northwest of Chicago, on May 9.
“She had multiple dog bites and scratches all over her body, mostly on her legs, torso and arms,” Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper told CNN.
“Clearly, she died from the wounds she received from the dog. There’s no question about that.”
A final autopsy report is still pending.
The dogs that shared her home
Urso owned three male dogs: Blue, a two-year-old French bulldog mix weighing 55 pounds; Rocco, a smaller 2-year-old French bulldog weighing 36 pounds; and Spike, a 25-pound, 15-year-old collie mix. They were found in healthy condition.
“There was no indication to think that this home was anything other than a typical pet friendly home,” said Robin Van Sickle, program manager at the Lake County Animal Care and Control center.
Rocco and Spike will be rehomed, while Blue was humanely euthanized on May 19.
Past incidents with Blue
Blue was known to the local police department and Animal Care and Control center after two recent incidents.
Blue bit Urso’s boyfriend in her home on April 13, causing him to seek out medical attention, said Lake County Police Cmdr. Dawn Deservi.
At the time, Blue was put in an at-home quarantine to observe for rabies. Since the dog bit Urso’s boyfriend again on April 21, within the home quarantine period, the dog was put in “hospital confinement” at the Animal Care and Control center for 10 days.
During the hospital confinement, Blue didn’t show signs of aggression or behaviors that would be cause for concern, Van Sickle said.
Because the two biting incidents happened in the home, there was no concern of public safety, so the center had no reason to hold Blue, she added.
At the end of the quarantine period on April 30, Urso took the dog back home.
Blue weighed 55 pounds
“A lot of people are thinking that this was a very small dog, and people don’t understand, this dog weighed 55 pounds,” Cooper, the coroner, said.
“It’s still a substantial size dog.”
Initial news of a death caused by a French bulldog surprised the staff at the animal control center, Van Sickle said.
“When this first came up, we were like, no, that’s not possible. There’s no way a French bulldog killed its owner. She probably died of natural causes, and [it] tried to revive her, stimulate her to wake up.”
“As a professional agency that’s experienced really weird situations, we had the same reaction and responses as everybody else did,” Van Sickle said.
Breed is not a risk factor in dog bite incidents
Although initially dubbed a French bulldog, the Lake County Animal Care and Control center later updated Blue’s breed description to a French bulldog mix, considering the dog’s size.
According to the American Kennel Club, French bulldogs typically weigh less than 28 pounds.
Van Sickle cautions against labeling specific breeds as aggressive.
“At the end of it, it was this individual dog, or dogs, that caused this unfortunate scenario,” Van Sickle said. “Sometimes you get a bad apple, just like you do with people.”
To this point, the National Canine Research Council told CNN that breed is not a risk factor when it comes to dog bite incidents, and that breed identification is profoundly unreliable, unless documented with pedigree certification or DNA analysis.