Pit bulls in fatal mauling considered 'dangerous,' animal control says

Pit bulls in fatal mauling considered 'dangerous,' animal control says

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"I have to live with this. They have to live with the fact they lost a daughter. I live with the fact I lost a friend...and there's nothing I can do about it," Charles Smallwood says. "I have to live with this. They have to live with the fact they lost a daughter. I live with the fact I lost a friend...and there's nothing I can do about it," Charles Smallwood says.

KNOX COUNTY (WATE) -- The pit bulls involved in the fatal mauling of a woman in Knox County Monday were deemed dangerous this past summer, according to animal control officers. 

Officer David Head says the designation applied to male and female dogs owned by Charles Smallwood at a mobile home on Sam Lee Road. It went into effect in August.

INFORMATION ABOUT PIT BULLS
  • Pit Bull is a shortened name for the American Pit Bull breed.
  • The American Pit Bull is not on the list of American Kennel Club breeds.
  • The Pit Bull is sometimes confused with other breeds, such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Bull Terrier.
  • The ancestors of Pit Bulls come from cross breeding the bulldogs and terriers of England.
  • Their ancestors were not only bred for fighting but also to hunt and kill vermin.

Smallwood had been ordered to build a pen for the dogs and told they could only be outside if they were in the pen wearing muzzles.

The pen was built.

Officer Head says animal control routinely checked on the dogs.

On the most recent visit, November 9, the dogs were found running unleashed in the yard with the owners, who were told the dogs either needed to be in the house or the pen.

"She (an animal control officer) stopped, explained the ordinance again, they had to be muzzled and on a secure chain and he did put the dogs in the house," Officer Head says.

In total, animal control officers had been to the home five times before Monday's mauling.

The first visit, in August, followed a complaint by a neighbor saying her dog had been attacked by one of the pit bulls.

"They attacked two police cruisers and we deemed them dangerous," Officer Head says.

On August 23, Smallwood's brother was cited over the dogs and sent to court.

On August 28, Smallwood signed papers stating he understood the county's requirements.

On September 14, animal control checked to make sure the county orders were followed.

Knox County Animal Control classifies dangerous dogs into three categories.

  1. Potentially dangerous - The dog has shown signs of aggression without being provoked and may have attacked another animal.
  2. Dangerous - The dog has attacked someone and may have caused serious injuries. The owner will have to follow certain regulations. The dog has to be kept inside, put in a cage or muzzled on a leash. if the owner doesn't comply, the dog can be taken away. The owner has 10 days to appeal to the health department. 
  3. Vicious - There are no dogs in Knox County in this category and there never have been.

Jennifer Lowe, 21, died Monday evening after she was mauled by the dogs at the home. Deputies said Lowe had injuries to her face and one arm was badly mangled.

Smallwood says Lowe was like a sister to him. He only knew her for three months but after a fight with a relative, he offered her a place to live.

"I was like, you can stay at my house. She lived here for two-and-a-half months before this happened. She's played with my dogs, given them a bath."

Smallwood says his dogs were gentle and denies neighbors' allegations that they were trained to be vicious. He also said he didn't breed the dogs for fighting. "Not one bit, I don't believe in it."

His neighbor, Jeanne Kidd, claimed she saw the dogs being kicked and provoked to fight. "I just see them over there playing with them, playing tug of war and there was one time, I saw them put something up in a tree. I swear it was meat. My daughter says she's seen them kick the dogs to get them to fight."

Smallwood raised his dogs, "Mafia" and "Passion Maria" from puppies and says when he bred and sold the puppies, he made sure they were going to good homes. "I had them sign a paper saying they wouldn't fight my dogs. If they did, I'd get them back."

Smallwood says the attack was an accident and his heartfelt sympathies are with Jennifer Lowe's family. "I have to live with this. They have to live with the fact they lost a daughter. I live with the fact I lost a friend...and there's nothing I can do about it."  

The District Attorney's Office says they have reviewed the facts and at this time do not plan to file criminal charges.

They say there is no proven intent by Smallwood to harm Jennifer Lowe.

6 News Anchor/Reporter Melissa DiPane and Reporter Ann Keil contributed to this report.

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