Parents Want Charges
Knoxville, TN - On November 12, a neighbor called 911 after seeing a pit bull attack 21-year old Jennifer Lowe in a nearby home. Upon arriving at the scene, Knox County Sheriff's deputies shot both pit bulls, killing one and wounding the other. The second dog ran off into the woods and was missing until the next day. The parents of Lowe in disagreement with the preliminary decision by prosecutors not to seek criminal charges against the dogs' owner, Charles Smallwood.
A WBIR news article reports that neighbor Jeanne Kidd heard Jennifer's cries. "I just heard her screaming, 'Help me, somebody help me,' then she'd go quiet for a little while. Then I'd hear her screeching, 'Somebody please help.'" Kidd says she heard the attack from across the street, but didn't know if the shrieks were real or some kind of a joke. She knew it wasn't a joke when she saw Lowe lying in the doorway of the mobile home with a pair of bloody pit bulls hovering nearby.
The family said that Jennifer fought back both dogs as they tore away her face, neck, shoulder and arms. She died shortly after reaching the hospital. She did not lose consciousness until her death.
It took nearly a half an hour for Knox County Sheriff's deputies to reach the mobile home after the ﬁrst 911 call. Jennifer's mother, Teresa Lowe, said, "My daughter just laid there. Now I'm wondering, did she bleed to death?" Police records reveal the response time to be true. Chief Deputy Tom Spangler said deputies initially thought they were responding to a possible domestic disturbance. One of the officers also had to stop and fill up his police cruiser with gasoline.
Teresa said that Jennifer, who hoped one day to become a probation ofﬁcer, had been working to help support her younger sister, Candace, 17, who lived with their father and who is unable to work because of serious health problems. James Lowe said his 21-year old daughter had been studying criminal justice, but had recently stopped going to school. James said his daughter loved the arts and crafts, especially making hemp jewelry and spending time with young relatives.
Dogs Previously Declared Dangerous
Several months before the fatal mauling, Knox County Animal Control had declared both pit bulls "dangerous." The owner of the dogs, Charles Smallwood, had been ordered to build a pen for the dogs and was told they could only be outside if they were in the pen wearing muzzles. It is reported that animal control had visited Smallwood's home five times about the dogs prior to the dogs killing Jennifer Lowe. Officer David Head describes the time line in a follow up article:
- The first visit, in August, followed a complaint by a neighbor saying her dog had been attacked by one of the pit bulls.
- Subsequent to this, the dogs attacked two police cruisers, which is when officials deemed the dogs "dangerous."
- 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.
- Three days before the fatal attack, the dogs were found running loose in the yard with the owners. An animal control officer stopped and reminded them that the dogs needed to be muzzled and on a secure chain.
Due to dismal Tennessee dog law, Jennifer's family has no civil recourse, nor can authorities charge Smallwood with a crime. State law disallows civil liability for maulings of people who are guests in a dog owner's home but does allow recourse if the dog attacks a person walking down the street. Charles Smallwood was required to have the dogs muzzled if the dogs were outside the home. But Jennifer was inside the home at the time of the attack, so he faces no criminal penalty.