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‘More like a shark attack’: Lawsuit filed after dog repeatedly bit Gainesville High teacher
Stacy Finelli
Stacy Finelli

Stacy Finelli got some mail Thursday, March 24, intended for her neighbor and walked it over to them.

After Finelli was invited into the Hawthorne Lane home, her attorneys allege the neighbors’ labrador/pit bull mix clamped its teeth onto Finelli and shook her body violently, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Hall County Superior Court.

Finelli, a French teacher at Gainesville High, has been in the hospital for almost two weeks. As of Friday, the dog remained in the Hall County Animal Services’ quarantine.

Rustin Smith, who is representing the Finellis along with Ronny Hulsey, said it was one of the worst dog attack cases he’s worked.

“Judging by the photos, to us it looked more like a shark attack than a dog attack,” Smith said.

Smith and Hulsey filed the lawsuit Friday, April 1, for the Finellis against Thomas and Jean Steusloff, the owners of the dog.

Thomas Steusloff declined to comment to The Times regarding the dog bite and whether the couple had legal representation.

The lawsuit alleged Stacy Finelli was invited into the Steusloff’s home by Jean Steusloff. The Finellis allege that Stacy Finelli did not provoke or contribute to the attack and that she could not have prevented it.

The lawsuit also alleges that the owners knew the dog was not friendly to strangers and had exhibited prior “vicious propensities,” “aggressive behavior” and “attack-type behavior.”

“On the day of the attack, defendant Jean Steusloff did not have the dog restrained or under control,” according to the lawsuit. “During the attack, (the) defendants’ dog clamped its teeth into and violently shook plaintiff Stacy Finelli’s body. During the attack, defendant Jean Steusloff yelled she ‘hated’ the dog.”

Finelli suffered injuries to her face and neck, with her arms and legs torn open in multiple places..

“The attack damaged plaintiff Stacy Finelli’s arms so badly (that) IVs had to be run through her feet instead of her arms,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Finelli suffered permanent scarring and disfigurement

The attorneys did not have an estimate on the damages sought in the lawsuit.

“They’re hoping to get her to the point to where she can start doing some rehabilitation,” Hulsey said. “But at this point, she’s got a long road ahead of her that’s going to involve surgeries, plastic surgery, and rehabilitation.”

Hulsey said some of the injuries were near her Achilles tendon, which means “learning the correct way to walk again.”

Hall County Animal Services Director Mike Ledford said citations were issued for failure to maintain control of an animal, but he did not provide further information on the citations.

“The investigation is still ongoing (and) we do not have all the facts yet,” Ledford wrote in an email. “The citations are with Magistrate Court for a court date in May.”