Sue Ann Gorman was sleeping Tuesday morning when two angry pit bulls charged in and attacked her in what police are calling the worst mauling...

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GIG HARBOR — Sue Ann Gorman was sleeping Tuesday morning when two angry pit bulls charged in and attacked her in what police are calling the worst mauling they’ve ever seen.

Gorman, 59, who spoke by phone from her Tacoma hospital room Tuesday night, said the dogs got in through her unlocked door about 9 a.m. as she snoozed with her service dog and a neighbor’s Jack Russell terrier.

Her dog, a sheltie named Misty, fled the bedroom as soon as the pit bulls entered and was unharmed. But Romeo, the terrier, was attacked along with Gorman and was killed.

Gorman, who is disabled, initially tried to protect her neighbor’s dog by throwing him in a closet and closing the door, but the pit bulls, owned by another neighbor, persisted.

She even pulled out a gun and tried to shoot the pit bulls, but the weapon wouldn’t fire, she said. She grabbed a large stick and tried to beat the dogs away, but they continued to attack.

“It was jumping at me and ripping my arms,” she recalled. “There’s blood all over the place.”

Gorman fled, grabbing the phone and dialing 911 as she ran to her car.

“This is the worst attack in my career in animal control,” said Brian Boman, a Pierce County animal-control officer.

Boman arrived at Gorman’s home in the 10600 block of 132nd Street Court Northwest shortly after she called for aid. He and Pierce County sheriff’s deputies captured the two pit bulls, which were still loose inside the house, after a short struggle that involved the use of pepper spray.

Gorman suffered injuries to her face, arms and legs, Boman said. She was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, where she was in satisfactory condition Wednesday morning. She said she expects to be in the hospital until at least Friday.

Rick Russell, Gorman’s next-door neighbor and Romeo’s owner, said his terrier visited Gorman often, sometimes staying the night with her. The dog apparently went to Gorman’s home after being with Russell’s son earlier in the morning.

“Romeo probably walked into a nightmare,” Russell said.

Shelly Wilson, who owns the pit bulls, Betty and Tank, said she’s devastated by the attack.

“She’s a good dog and we don’t know what happened,” she said of Betty.

Wilson said her dogs, which are mother and son, were chained in her back yard Monday night. Tuesday morning her son woke up and didn’t see them, then noticed an ambulance two houses down.

Wilson said her family has known Gorman since they moved to the street seven or eight years ago.

“We would like to do whatever we can,” Wilson said.

She added that she had received one complaint and no citations regarding the dogs before Tuesday’s attack.

But Gorman and neighbors say Wilson’s pit bulls have long terrorized the area.

Brad King said his five-pound papillon, Toby, was attacked inside his home when the two dogs entered through his open back door last summer. “They had Toby in their mouths,” King said.

King was able to stop the attack, but Toby suffered a broken jaw.

Neal Fortner, who lives two houses down from Gorman, said the pit bulls came toward him snarling one morning as he tried to get into his car. He threw rocks to shoo them away.

“I can’t believe she made it out her back door,” he said of Gorman. “I’m just glad she made it with her life.”

Gorman said she has called 911 previously when Betty charged her and Misty.

She said the animals should be shot.

“A lot of pit bulls are very sweet, but she’s not at all,” she said of Betty. “She’s got a real mean streak in her.”

The Pierce County Humane Society will keep the dogs in custody until a judge decides their fate.

Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said he hadn’t heard of another case where dogs entered a pet door and attacked someone.

He added that deputies typically warn people to secure pet doors as a way to prevent burglaries.

King County animal officers also recalled no history of violent dogs entering homes through pet doors, but an attacking dog recently entered a house through an open front door, according to Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for King County Animal Services.

Seattle Times staff reporter Brad Haynes contributed to this report.

Manuel Valdes: 206-464-5874 or mvaldes@seattletimes.com; Brian Alexander: 206-464-2026 or balexander@seattletimes.com