Couple Warns of Hidden Dangers and Unknown Information
Willis, TX - Last November, Lorrie George, 59-years old, was viciously attacked by a tethered pit bull while visiting a friend at a private RV park in Willis, Texas. The injury nearly cost Lorrie her left leg. What follows in this post, told through the eyes of Lorrie and her partner Thomas, is what led up to the mauling and what unfolded in its aftermath. Like many pit bull attacks that end in horrific injury, the local media did not report Lorrie's attack, not even after the couple reached out to them.
Our documentation of Lorrie's attack describes in detail how the legal and law enforcement system in Texas deserted Lorrie and Thomas, primarily due to the location and conditions of the attack and a pit bull owner who was uninsured. The couple's story is filled with frustration and sadness, a disbelief this could happen to them, and worse, any number of new unsuspecting victims. The only relief they feel today is in knowing that Lorrie's attack may have prevented the death of a child.
Issues covered in this blog post include: The day of the attack and the history of Tank, a nine-time biter leading up to the mauling, a closer look at Tank's first recorded bite and lack of injury severity tracked, the rejection of their case by four attorneys and the crime victims' compensation program, the bungled or non-dog bite investigation, the "vicious dog loop" and how charity to an irresponsible friend comes at a price, finally, the change the couple would like to see in Texas state law.
Click here to see terminology that explains the various types of private RV parks.
The Day of the Attack
See full album to view more images of different perspectives of the RV lot.
On November 12th, 2012, Veterans Day,1 Lorrie and Thomas drove to Park on the Lake RV Park, a privately owned RV park in Willis, Texas. The park does not require trailer insurance, allows for the indefinite stay of residents and is "dog friendly." The couple was on their way to visit Denise,2 a friend who needed help with an electrical problem in her towable RV. The couple knew Denise from their time spent working together at nearby Hide E Hole Equine Therapy Center.
Denise owned a male pit bull named Tank that was about 2.75 years old. Both Lorrie and Thomas were wary of the dog and had experienced minor bites from the animal when Denise lived and worked at the equine center. Part of the reason why Denise was asked to leave the center was due to Tank. The dog had gone after one of the horses and ended up with a solid kick to the head.3 On November 12th, Lorrie and Thomas still lived and worked at the equine center.
When the two arrived at about 2 p.m., Denise tied Tank up to a makeshift low wooden barrier near the back of her trailer and the three went inside to have coffee and talk. After about an hour of visiting together, Denise asked Thomas to look at her electrical system located in the back of her trailer. All three adults exited; Thomas and Denise walked to the back. Denise noticed that Tank had gotten tangled up in his long rope over the past hour. She started to untangle her dog.
Lorrie exited moving away from Thomas and Denise, toward the adjacent lot and the estuary, which ran behind the trailers. Lorrie edged away, keeping her distance from Tank, but had no idea of the length of his rope, which was 20 to 25 feet. Thomas stated in an email to DogsBite.org, "The next thing I know is that TANK had Lorrie by the leg. Lorrie was standing in the easement between Denise's trailer and her neighbor's trailer, the dog should not have been able to reach Lorrie."
"For tenant #66 to use that cooker he would be standing where Lorrie was attacked," Thomas wrote.
A portion of Lorrie's written statement. Read statement in full.
Tank was laying very still on the ground, he did not bark or growl and all of a sudden, like a bolt of lighting he grabbed hold of my left leg just above the knee. He bit into my leg, and I fell to the ground. I thought for a moment that he would let go but he continued to bite me harder and started growling and shaking me like a toy.
I screamed for Tommy and cried Tank is attacking me. Tommy jumped on Tank and tried to get him to release his grip on my leg. Tommy then yelled for Denise to help him get Tank off of me. Tank refused to release his grip on me, even with Denise and Tommy trying to pry him off of me. The pain was intense and I have never been so terrified in my life. They finally got him to release me for a second and then he bit me again on the lower part of my leg.
Once again they struggled to pry him loose from my leg. When he finally released me Tommy was yelling to me to move away but I couldn't move. I went into shock, I had my hand gripping my pant leg very tightly, thinking I was preventing my leg from bleeding.
I looked down at my leg and saw huge gashes, it looked like I was attacked by a shark. - Lorrie Ruth George
While Lorrie was on the ground holding her mangled leg together, other people in the park rushed over to help. One woman standing nearby even lifted her skirt to show Lorrie the wound where Tank had bitten her a few days earlier. The gathering crowd assured Lorrie that 911 had been called and that an ambulance was on the way. Thomas asked for a blanket to help keep Lorrie from going into shock. The ambulance did arrive quickly, but to Lorrie it felt like an eternity.
"Finally, I felt myself being placed onto a gurney and hoisted into an ambulance," she said.
She was transported to the ER at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Woodlands. Lorrie writes in her statement that the doctor was undecided about what to do. "He acted like he had never seen a dog bite this bad," she wrote. She remained in the ER for about six hours; nearly two were spent working on her primary thigh injury. Just before releasing her, doctors realized they had missed the entire lower wound on her leg, which was bad enough to elicit concern for skin grafting.
Neither Lorrie nor Thomas understood why she was not kept overnight. The Woodlands hospital is a Level III trauma center, equipped to stabilize and transfer trauma patients to Level I, but with limited beds. Both were comforted by the ambulance paramedics, who stayed with them in the ER for a long time. Thomas had ridden in the front seat. On the way to the ER, Thomas said the ambulance driver told him, "I have never seen a bite as bad as hers. It looked like a shark attack."
Lorrie wrote in her statement that she spent the next week: "confined to bed, only getting up to use the bathroom." Because of the open wounds, "there was a lot of leakage of blood, which ruined my clothes and bedding," she wrote. Her injuries had to be washed and bandaged twice a day. In a phone call with DogsBite.org, she said she doesn't know how she could have coped without Thomas' help. Denise did not contact her during this time to ask about her welfare, she said.
Seven days after the attack, Lorrie had a follow up visit with a local doctor in Conroe. At that time, her wounds looked okay with no signs of infection. She was told to return on the 27th to have the stitches removed. But on the morning of the 24th, both she and Thomas knew that something was wrong. She wrote that her wound "smelled like rotting meat." Thomas took her back to the ER at Herman Memorial Woodlands where they told them that gangrene was a real danger.
The immediate cleaning of her wounds and new antibiotics staved off the threat.
Thomas said that Lorrie was bedridden with her injuries for two months. Her medical bills exceeded $10,000, using the full amount of her Medicare insurance. Lorrie had needed an eye operation before the dog attack to repair a torn retina, "or she may go blind in that eye," Thomas said. She was also being treated for glaucoma in both eyes. Due to the allocation of funds to treat the mauling injury, Lorrie will have to wait until next year for new treatment covered by Medicare.
The pit bull owner had no insurance and is a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient. Recovering compensation from her was futile.
Lorrie is also an SSI recipient. She has a neurological brain disorder. Before the mauling, she had been staying at the equine therapy center to be near the horses. After two years of living at the center, she believed her condition was improving. "The attack changed all that," she wrote in her statement. Nine months after the attack, Lorrie said that her injuries have healed, "but I don't think my brain has," she said. Her left leg, she explained, "just doesn't feel like her other one anymore."
Sensitivity and pain in the upper injury still comes and goes, she said. She described it as a kind of "restless leg syndrome, like there are no ends there," referring to nerve endings. She said it still causes her sleeping problems. The scarring isn't bad, she said, but she'll be wearing long pants to an upcoming social event. The worst part about today, she said, is the continued mental frustration. Meanwhile, "the dog owner goes on," Lorrie said, "as if nothing ever happened."
She added that to this day, Denise has never offered her an apology.4
The History of "Tank"
By the age of approximately 2.75 years old, Tank had bitten at least seven different people and gone after a horse.5 Lorrie and Thomas knew about most of these bites before the November 12th mauling. They uncovered more in the months following. Lessons both have learned since the RV park attack is that all dog bites should be reported to help future victims and to create a paper trail for a dangerous dog designation and that all dog bites are legally required to be reported as well.6
Both were also surprised to learn that waiving medical treatment for minor dog bites could result in developing serious health complications. Lorrie said that an unfamiliar dog bit her in the past that had come from a vacant lot. She reported that bite because she was afraid of rabies. "Tank had his tags," Thomas said, "so we knew that rabies was not a threat." Lorrie and Thomas are hardly unique. Many people have no idea that minor dog bites can still lead to serious infection.
While working at the equine therapy center during Denise's stay, both Lorrie and Thomas each were bitten twice by Tank. The first pair were "nips," they said, the second pair left puncture wounds. Through conversations with Denise, they learned that Tank had bitten a female friend at the center along with Denise's own granddaughter. After Denise and her dog became indefinite residents at Park on the Lake, beginning in early October 2012, Tank inflicted more bites.7
As we talked on the phone, both Lorrie and Thomas were surprised at the number of bites when they began adding them up in earnest.
One bite at the RV park was to Lisa, the woman who raised her skirt just after Tank attacked Lorrie. Another incident involved Denise's neighbor at the RV park. Denise told Lorrie and Thomas the man reported the bite incident to park management.8 Yet, the county animal control agency has no record of it. Had the agency been notified, Park on the Lake might have been made aware it was Tank's second documented bite, placing the entity further into the "liability equation."
In 2010, Tank bit another woman at the equine center. The caveat being that the 2010 bite (or mauling) was reported and documented by the county animal control agency.
Reviewing the 2010 Reported Bite
The 2010 biting incident and 2012 mauling at Park on the Lake fell under the jurisdiction of Montgomery County Animal Control (MCAC). Thomas believes that Denise began living and working at the center in December 2009. Not long after, a relative of the center's owner had a litter of pit bulls. Two puppies were given to the center. Denise took the male and the equine owner's son took the female. Tank's first documented bite occurred at the center on June 6th, 2010.
Lorrie and Thomas began living and working at the equine therapy center in April 2011. Thomas recalled Denise telling him about the 2010 incident at some point during their overlapping stay at the center. According to the MCAC bite report, the dog "jumped from truck through open window" and attacked a visiting 35-year old female. The circumstance of the attack is listed as "unprovoked" on the bite report. Tank was quarantined at MCAC then released back to its owner.
The 2010 bite report shows that the incident occurred at 9102 Longmire Road, Conroe, Texas, the address of Hide E Hole Acres Equine Therapy Center. As explained, Denise had already been living and working at the facility for seven months. However, the home address she provided to MCAC was a specific lot at Park on the Lake RV Park, the very lot where the 2012 mauling transpires. One can only speculate as to why Denise provided the wrong home address.
According to Thomas' recollection, Denise had not resided at Park on the Lake before October 2012. Seven of the known ten bites by Tank occurred while Denise was living at the equine center. Lorrie and Thomas learned about four of the bites because Denise spoke of them freely. Denise, seemingly, was a ticking liability time bomb for any landlord or property owner that rented to or housed her and Tank. Maybe this is why she provided the wrong home address to MCAC?9
How Serious was the First Reported Bite?
When Thomas contacted DogsBite.org in late May of this year, he sent the 2010 and Lorrie's bite report. Tank's "bite" was listed as "unprovoked" in both reports. The area of injury was similar too. Tank bit both female victims on the thigh. Notably, the "severity" of injury on each report was listed simply as "puncture" (please review Lorrie's injury photo again). To gain a better understanding of this insufficient definition of injury severity on the bite reports, DogsBite.org wrote to MCAC.
We first wrote on June 6th, asking if there were only two levels of dog bite injury severity: puncture and non-puncture? We received a response saying the email was forwarded to the appropriate person. A response did not arrive. We wrote again on July 8th, asking the same question. This time a response did come and to our surprise, at some point after Lorrie's mauling (Possibly between June 6th and July 8th?), MCAC altered how they documented dog bite injury severity.
Q. Are there only two options under severity -- puncture and non puncture?
"We currently have several changed our report to reflect the following wound types:
a) Contact Only
b) Scratch Only
c) Broken Skin and Open Wound
d) No Known Contact Test Only
e) Severe Attack
f) Attack Resulting in Death." - MCAC, July 8, 2013
Q. Does Montgomery County internally or otherwise track severity levels of dog bite injuries?
"Pursuant to Texas Law there are three types of actions that are necessary dealing with dogs:
a) Multiple Acts that place a person in fear it would attack and cause bodily injury
b) Bite Wounds causing Bodily Injury
c) Severe Bite Wounds or Death" - MCAC, July 8, 2013
The "puncture vs. non-puncture" only distinction on a dog bite report is an artifact from decades ago, back when rabies was still the major reason why public agencies tracked dog bites. The primary questions in response to any bite case back then were: "Did the bite break the skin?" Meaning, "Is there a threat of rabies transmission?" and "Is the dog vaccinated?" This tracking method was routine until the early 1980s, when the era of dangerous dog breeds erupted.
In this day and age we live in a new reality -- destructive maulings. New criteria for recording injury severity have become important for three reasons. 1.) Victims like Lorrie who are trying to pursue civil lawsuits. Was Tank's first documented bite a "Scratch Only" or was it a "Severe Attack?" 2.) When a first (or any) attack is a "Severe Attack," it cannot be obfuscated as a mere puncture injury, and 3.) Provide relevant, detailed information to pursue a dangerous dog designation.
While we do not know the degree of injury in the 2010 attack, other aspects of that incident are known. Tank jumping from a truck through an open window to attack a woman unprovoked appears to qualify under Texas state law as an act qualifying a dangerous dog designation -- this being the dog's first unprovoked aggressive act, not multiple victims later. How different would Lorrie and Thomas' life be today if Tank had been given a dangerous dog designation in 2010?10
(2) "Dangerous dog" means a dog that:
(A) makes an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury and occurs in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own; or
(B) commits unprovoked acts in a place other than an enclosure in which the dog was being kept and that was reasonably certain to prevent the dog from leaving the enclosure on its own and those acts cause a person to reasonably believe that the dog will attack and cause bodily injury to that person.
We predict that Montgomery County will log many pit bull maulings in the future qualifying as "Severe Attack" and "Attack Resulting in Death." As noted in our March report, Texas Dog Bite Fatalities, January 1, 2005 to February 17, 2013, Montgomery is the third leading county in the State of Texas for fatal dog attacks, and whose crime-related newspaper, Montgomery County Police Reporter, runs articles like, "Montgomery County recorded yet another Pit Bull attack."
Just a few days before this article, a pit bull killed a 4-year old boy in Montgomery County.
Jan 22, 2013
WILLIS — Early Tuesday afternoon, Montgomery County recorded yet another Pit Bull attack. This one occurred in the 100 block of Straughter at Rogers Road. Willis Police responded along with Montgomery County Hospital District. They arrived to find an 18-month-old male, bitten in the face, neck, and side. His mother was also bitten and scratched, but not severely.
MCHD transported both to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. The boy remains in critical condition as of this writing, but is expected to recover.11 - Montgomery County Police Reporter
Rejection after Rejection by Attorneys
Lorrie and Thomas knew right away that pursing the dog owner was unfeasible. Why couldn't they pursue Park on the Lake? They turned to attorneys to find out. The answers given to them were not to their liking. Nine months after the mauling, four attorneys have rejected their case so far. Pursuing a landlord or landowner in the State of Texas is viable, but is further complicated when the attack occurs in a private RV park. Among other legal issues, there is a two-part test:
A landlord or landowner in this state can be held liable for failing to rid premises of a known dangerous dog ... The Baker court set forth a two-part test: "(1) the injury must have occurred in a common area under the control of the landlord; and (2) the landlord must have had actual or imputed knowledge of the particular dog's vicious propensities." - Dogbitelaw.com
The frustration of abandonment by the attorneys is best summed up by Thomas who wrote in an email to DogsBite.org: "What I don't understand is why almost every park restricts dangerous dogs for fear of liability, and this park and attorneys are trying to claim there is no liability." This is an honest question that we do not have enough legal background to answer, except that in a nutshell, their case is difficult to pursue, particularly given that Denise was uninsured (judgment proof).
What arises over and over again in the case of Lorrie and Thomas is that they are simply Shit Out of Luck. Between the lack of a better paper trail on Tank to the rental living arrangements of Denise at the time -- no trailer insurance required at Park on the Lake -- and a legal system that can't function without both, victims of serious dog maulings are thrust into a nearly impossible situation. Obtaining compensation for medical bills under this scenario is at best grim.
Even when riding inside a speeding ambulance and a paramedic confesses to your partner, "I have never seen a bite as bad as hers," as was the case with Lorrie, there may be no means to recover compensation. Due to mandatory insurance for road vehicles and homes under financing, this is usually untrue in those scenarios. Your best bet is to understand the conditions that caused this terrible outcome for Lorrie and Thomas and avoid placing yourself in a similar situation.
How many readers have ever considered the risk of encountering a dangerous dog at a private RV park or campground area? Lorrie and Thomas hope you consider it now.
Crime Victims' Compensation Program
Still, not all hope was lost for the couple. The equine center's husband is a former Harris County sheriff. He recommended that Lorrie apply to the Texas Crime Victims' Compensation program. Many states have a similar program for victims of violent crimes, though qualifying and procedural operations may differ widely. The Texas program denied Lorrie's application. The violent pit bull mauling that could have led to the amputation of her whole left leg was not considered a crime.
DogsBite.org contacted the victims' program to learn more. "In what scenario would Lorrie have qualified?" we asked. Generally, qualifying applicants are determined on a case-by-case basis, we were told. Yet, if the dog owner had been issued a criminal citation, for instance, an at large citation,12 Lorrie's application might have been approved. The victims' compensation program is looking for "criminal conduct." This does not always require a criminal citation, but it helps.
Tank was not running at large during the attack. Some, however, could argue the dog was, tethered to a 20-25 foot rope in a cramped RV park.
Tank's perilous tethering, which reached into three RV lots, two belonging to other campers, should have been a violation of a local, county or state tethering law13 and certainly in violation of park rules. Yet, the private RV park had no known tethering rules. No citation was given. Denise was also current on her dog's vaccinations, again, no citation. Tank was guilty of previous bites, but there is no application of the state felony dog attack law, Lillian's Law, because?14
The law only applies to a loose dog, or a "dangerous dog" that is not confined.
After the November 12th mauling, the dangerous dog designation did kick in. Denise immediately put Tank down. She did not have an interest in complying with the designation, which would have mandated $100,000 in liability insurance, special containment rules and more. IF Tank had been designated a dangerous dog before it attacked Lorrie (and still attacked) and Denise failed to comply with these restrictions, these failures could have resulted in serious criminal citations.
Again, the victim's compensation program is looking for "criminal conduct." Did the conduct of that person pose substantial injury? Denise knew that Tank was a repeat biter. It was dangerous for her to tether Tank to a 20 to 25 foot rope in an RV park setting, but the program did not believe this to be criminal conduct. If "unattended" tethered Tank had attacked a neighboring child standing in the easement area while the adults were inside Denise's trailer, would that have qualified?
Possibly yes? 1.) The dog would have been unattended and 2.) The child was not a friend or guest of Denise like Lorrie and Thomas were.
By talking to the victims' program, we also learned that there is a 3-year statute of limitations and an appeals process. However, when we notified Thomas about this, he said they only had a 30-day window to appeal (See: appeals process). They declined to appeal because they found an attorney who dumped the case 4-months later, as did two other attorneys after a few months and one who wouldn't take the case at all. Thomas said the whole thing was "sort of a trick."
The victim's program is considered the "payor of last resort," according to their application. Lorrie's Medicare insurance had maxed out. The dog owner was uninsured. But Lorrie did not meet the most basic eligibility requirement: "Victims of violent crime who suffer physical or mental harm as a direct result of the crime." In Lorrie's case, and umpteen other damaging dog maulings, assault or aggravated assault by a pit bull is not equivalent to assault by a "person."15
Who is the payor of last resort?
• All other available third party resources (for example, Medicare, Medicaid, personal health insurance, workers’ compensation and settlements) must meet their legal obligations to pay crime-related expenses.
• The Crime Victims’ Compensation Program must be notified before a civil lawsuit is filed in relation to the crime, if restitution is ordered by the criminal court, or if any party receives the proceeds of a settlement.
• CVC is considered the payor of last resort.
Bungled Dog Bite Investigation?
Was the investigation of Lorrie's biting incident "bungled" as the couple suspects, or was it a typical dog bite investigation? Thomas said there were three agencies involved in Lorrie's case: Willis Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff's Department and MCAC. He said that he had great difficulty trying to reach all three to learn more about reports that might have been written about her case. It turns out there were none, except for the basic bite report by MCAC.
Thomas said it took at least 30-days to obtain this report from MCAC, which often comes as a shock to dog bite victims, but isn't an uncommon time frame. More disturbing to Thomas is that he was never interviewed or called by the other responding agencies. "They were on the scene as Lorrie was being hoisted into the ambulance," he said. "So what happened?" He also asked DogsBite.org, "Why after leaving multiple messages at the agencies did no one return my calls?"
While we cannot respond on behalf of those agencies, we hear the same questions from many dog bite victims. We believe the answer is stated on the first page of Lorrie's bite report. "Synopsis: Victim was visiting owner, she walked past the bite case dog where it was tied and it bit." How would the synopsis have been written had an assailant pulverized Lorrie's leg by beating her with a steel baseball bat? Injuries suffered by dog bite victims are routinely minimized.
We have a suggestion for how Lorrie's bite synopsis should have been written:
The dog latched onto the victim then re-attacked the victim and re-attacked the victim causing massive injuries to her left thigh.
"The dog bit" scenario would be natural prior to the early 1980s, before pit bulls began pouring into the public in record numbers (See: leakage period) causing an explosion of injuries leaving victims "unrecognizable as a human being," and by 1986, described as a canine that attacks "like a shark." Since 1986, pit bulls have brutally mauled to death 275 Americans. But still, nearly 30-years later, the MCAC bite report merely describes the repeated assault upon Lorrie as "it bit."
As indicated by MCAC, new guidelines have been established for tracking dog bite injury severity level. This is a step in the right direction, particularly for a county well rehearsed in serious and fatal pit bull maulings and a long history of dogfighting, fighting dog breeding and related crimes. Another step in the right direction would be to review San Antonio's program rolled out in 2012, billed as "one of the most proactive approaches in the state to support dog bite victims."16
No Crime = No Investigation
With criminal conduct absent in this case, at least according to Texas laws, there was no basis for Willis Police or Montgomery County Sheriff's Department to investigate. This is true regarding the victims' compensation program as well. Lorrie and Thomas do not understand this, nor does any dog mauling victim. Lorrie asked us, "So, Denise can go out and do the same thing again? Isn't that a crime?" The answer to her first question is Yes. The answer to her second question is No.
The "vicious dog loop" is particularly ghastly in One Free Bite states like Texas.
Yes, Denise can obtain a new pit bull. That dog can attack once (no liability due to One Free Bite rule).17 That dog can attack again, now the owner is liable, but who cares if she has no insurance or assets? Then she puts the dog down to avoid the dangerous dog designation. Then the loop can play again and again. If one of the secondary attacks by the same dog is serious and occurs off the dog owner's property, Denise "might" be charged under the state felony dog attack law.
Most people can't imagine the "vicious dog loop" could be true.18 Most people also can't imagine being abandoned by a legal and law enforcement system the way Lorrie and Thomas were. This, however, is the way it is in Texas. Lorrie's mauling did fall into the gray area of occurring on private RV park property with quasi-residential property borders by a tethered dog. Yet, the result could have been the same had the attack occurred on the property of a home Denise was renting.
An uninsured dog owner is an uninsured dog owner wherever he or she goes.
"Tolerance" Comes with at a Risk
Like many dog bite scenarios, Lorrie was attacked while visiting a friend's home. Both Lorrie and Thomas were untrusting of Tank, but did not believe that his previous behavior was foretelling of a relentless, sustained pit bull mauling. Nor were they aware that by entering onto the dog owner's property, they would give up all mechanisms to receive compensation for the serious injuries inflicted by the animal. What average person would know this? It's buried in dog bite laws.
DogsBite.org has never spoken to any victims who had knowledge of civil or criminal liability of a dog mauling prior to being attacked.
For some, a lingering question might be: "Why, knowing about Tank, would the couple do this woman a favor by going to her home (trailer in this case) to check her electrical system?" See how Denise just walked away? Not even bothering to apologize? Lorrie and Thomas are caring people. It never occurred to them that being "nice" and "tolerant" to a friend with a risky dog could end this extremely, Lorrie in fear of losing her whole left leg and Denise able to walk away scot-free.
Lorrie and Thomas represent the majority of Americans who are charitable to friends who own hazardous dogs. Their friendship comes first instead of their own personal health and safety. The primary reason why is because they do not even know they have made this choice. This information is hidden from the public eye. The forced recognition comes only after a brutal attack and trip to the ER on a gurney, complete with hanging IV bags and the smell of a sterilized room.
DogsBite.org cautions that you need to protect yourself and your family first. There are systems in place for this.
There is no perfection in animal control agencies, but due to state rabies control and quarantining laws (in every state), all dog bites should be reported and are taken seriously for this reason. Being "understanding" with owners of high-risk dogs, as Lorrie's account shows, ended in a severe mauling and the total abandonment by the legal and law enforcement system in Texas. This, of course, was coupled by being a "visiting guest" on an uninsured renter's property.
These are extremely painful lessons to learn in hindsight, especially after the infliction of terrible injuries and shelling out thousands in medical bills. On top of this, Lorrie and Thomas had no insight that Denise is a "dime a dozen" when it comes to reckless owners of dangerous dog breeds: multiple bites, dangerous tethering (and other idiotic restraint practices) and naturally no insurance. Nor did they know that many of them ride the "vicious dog loop" over and over again.
Reforming Texas State Law
On a state level, Lorrie and Thomas would like to see the adoption of mandatory insurance for owners of known dangerous dog breeds. If by doing this the right way -- only targeting well established dangerous dog breeds -- causes an all out war by the well-funded dangerous dog breed lobby, the couple would also be satisfied by applying the law to all dog breeds. That way, the owners of ankle biters can help pay for dog mauling injuries that are likened to "shark attacks."
The couple also believes that "Dog Friendly" private RV parks should require:
- Proof of insurance on the motorized or towable RV.
- Special restrictions or the prohibition of known dangerous dog breeds.
- Clear tethering guidelines, including the maximum length of the tether.
- Security or staff that enforces these rules.
- Security or staff trained in emergency response procedures.19
Lorrie and Thomas' Checklist When Visiting "Dog Friendly" Private RV Parks
- Check to see if proof of insurance and registration on the motorized or towable RV is required upon checking in. If not, reconsider your stay.
- Check to see if there are restrictions, such as, "only small dogs allowed" or breed-specific restrictions, such as, no pit bulls or rottweilers.20 If the dog or pet friendly private RV park has neither condition, reconsider your stay.
- Check to see if there are tethering guidelines, including the maximum length of the tether and how long of period the animal can be tied up. If there are no written tethering guidelines, reconsider your stay.
- If you find yourself driving on FM 830 on the outskirts of Willis, Texas21 in either direction, do not stop and exit your vehicle AT ALL. As Thomas commented to DogsBite.org, "Expect to be treated worse than a dog."22
Park on the Lake RV Park in Willis, Texas
In addition to hoping that Lorrie's attack saved the life of a child -- Tank was euthanized after Lorrie's attack -- the couple truly hoped that Park on the Lake would alter their park policies after the mauling to better protect the safety of their residents and guests. DogsBite.org wrote to the company on August 23rd asking two simple questions, but did not receive a response as of pre-press time, August 28th. Surely, our questions could have been easy enough to respond to:
- What are Park on the Lake's current park rules concerning dogs?
- Has there been a policy change since the November 12th, 2012 attack that seriously injured Lorrie?
So we headed to the park's website.23 Given that "dog run" is still listed as a park amenity, we presume the "all dog breed" policy is still in place. Notably absent from the park's website are the words "pet" and "pet friendly" and "dog friendly." Instead, Park on the Lake advertises the park as the "friendliest place to park" and a "family-friendly RV park." DogsBite.org looked through at least a hundred photos on their website and Facebook page, not a single one showed a dog.
Thomas believes this is deceptive advertising, "Is it a family-friendly park or a dog-friendly park?" he asked.
Tank was the farthest thing from "family-friendly" imaginable. Again, if we are to believe Denise's story, that park management was told that her dog had bitten her neighbor, any responsible park manager would have kicked the dog out then. Whatever may be the case, Lorrie paid the price. While Tank is no longer a threat to park residents, any current or arriving pit bulls and rottweilers are, especially if tied to a long rope in a packed environment described as, "sardines in a can."
Below is a collection of Park on the Lake RV Park reviews from various websites.
Park On The Lake
12351 FM 830 Road
Willis, TX 77318
- Mar 2013, RV Park Reviews - We left after several hours. It is a place for permanent housing in very old RV's. Dirt road, very crowded and overall unsightly. We camped here in a Motorhome. - Anonymous
- Mar 2013, Google Reviews - …There are A LOT of full-timers in the park and lot of campers that are parked full time with no apparent tenants. Some have porches in need of repair and lots of extra STUFF stacked around and under trailers … We moved after 4 nights ... could not take the dirt tracking in another day! Will not be going back! - Jacquelyn Carter
- Sep 2012, SuperPages.com - The worst rv park I have ever been too. Very dangerous place. People drive thru at speeds up to and over 40 mph. Posted speed is 5 mph. We sent numerous complaints to office and they where never addressed. Many drunks stumbling around...loud music all hrs day/night. No security... its not an rv park, rather a trailer park....STAY AWAY...there will be law suits soon against that getto of a campground. - Anonymous
- Jan 2011, RV Park Reviews - Disappointed after seeing website. Sites are small. Mostly permanent residents with cluttered sites. Camp bathrooms have no paper products or light bulbs.They should board them shut if they aren't going to clean them and make them of use. Seems more like a trailer park than campground as campers don't go walking and visiting like in most campgrounds. We camped here in a Motorhome. - Anonymous
- Date Unknown, Doggies Welcome - this park is not what it appears to be. they have no working security (although they will tell you they do). i have witnessed numerous assults in the park from campers on other campers. they claim to have working internet, but you get kicked off every 3-5 mins..the staff are rude and disrespectful of campers wishes. i will never return and i advise any one and everyone to stay away... - maps.google.com
- Date Unknown, Camping.About.com - Drive on past this place! Most of the park dwellers live there full time. I had a neighbor who party right outside my window to late hours of the night. Dogs running wide. Turned water off twice. Promised internet service and had none. I paid for a full month and stayed only two weeks. Management very, very rude and refused to pay remaining two weeks. Then after I left they made a fraudulent charge on my credit card and I had to report it to the police. Drive on past this trashy place. - Park on the Lake, Willis, Texas, Member jo12345678
- Sep 2009, RV Park Reviews - It appears as if most of the guests were semi-permanent so most of the sites were cluttered. The sites were small, crowded, and I would not stay here again. We camped here in a Motorhome.
- Sep 2008, SuperPages.com - … Dusty roads and the sites are too close together. We felt like sardines in a can. We could hear the neighbor's TV and their cabinet doors slamming. - guest82352
Definitions - Private RV Parks, The Basics
Types of RV parks and language basics.
Affiliated private RV parks are known as the nicest parks and can require a membership. Such parks may require proof of vehicle registration and insurance when checking in. Security is often provided with actual security cars that drive the grounds. The average stay is 2-days to 2-weeks. Some private RV parks (affiliated or not) allow for "semi-permanent" or seasonal residents, an average stay of 1-2 months. Overnight stayers in seasonal parks are often called "transient."
A "slum park" is equivalent to a "trailer park" and can allow for the indefinite stay of tenants (aka "full-timers"), slowly turning the park into a slum. Such parks may also have semi-permanent and transient residents. Some private RV parks allow for dogs, others do not. Some "dog friendly" private RV parks also have breed or size restrictions. In this specific case, the owner of the pit bull lived in an "all dog breed friendly" private RV park that allows for the indefinite stay of tenants.
Motorized and towable RV insurance basics.
Motorized RVs, like all automobiles on the road, require insurance. Towable RVs that are under a financing plan also require insurance. If a towable RV is fully paid for, insurance is optional for the owner. Towable RV insurance is often attached to the towing vehicle's insurance policy and might also be included in a homeowner's umbrella policy. More or less, this is true across all 50 states.24 In this specific case, the towable RV trailer owned by the dog owner was not insured.
State and national campgrounds / RV parks.
Though not part of this specific case, public campgrounds, such as state and national parks and recreational facilities that have RV hook ups, often 1.) Do not have breed restrictions, 2.) Do not require vehicle registration and insurance and 3.) Are limited to a 2-week stay. These parks usually have Rangers, law enforcement officers trained in emergency medical response, public safety and education. These often wide-ranging parks also have extensive park rules.25
2Lorrie and Thomas said that Denise no longer resides at the RV park.
3The dog was knocked unconscious.
4Fourteen days after the attack, Denise posted a disturbing meme on her Facebook page, shared from "I love pit bulls."
5Individuals followed by bites: Lorrie (3), Thomas (2), Denise's granddaughter (1), two female friends of Denise (2), RV park male (1) and RV Park female (1).
6Willis, Texas § 90.040 (E) Any person having knowledge of an animal bite to a human will report the incident to the Animal Control Officer, Code Enforcement Officer, a city police officer, or the City Health Authority Director as soon as possible after the incident.
Montgomery County, Texas SECTION VI. When a dog or cat that has bitten a human has been identified, the owner or custodian shall place the animal in quarantine, as required by the Rabies Control Act of 1981, § 826.042 TX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE, and the rules of the Texas Board of Health, and amendments thereto.
7Denise resided in a cottage with a fenced yard at the equine center, which at least limited the dog. It was obscenely reckless of her to take that dog to an RV park setting, which prohibits fence installation. Park on the Lake also specifically prohibits installing, "any pet carriers or cages or houses around your campsite." After the November mauling, Thomas obtained a copy of the park's rules.
8That's all Lorrie and Thomas know, what Denise told them. The couple never spoke directly with her neighbor.
9Both DogsBite.org and Thomas are still stumped about this and how Denise was related to Park on the Lake in 2010. Recall, she provided MCAC the address right down to the lot number where the mauling occurred 2.5 years later. Thomas believes that prior to moving into the cottage on the equine center in December 2009 (staying through early October 2012), Denise lived in a rented trailer next to the center. Prior to that, she lived in a house down the street from the center on Longmire Road. Prior to that, she lived in different RV park where she met Lorrie and Thomas.
10The 2010 bite report basically consists of a single sentence and no injury severity. So yes, this is speculation on our part on whether or not this attack might have led to a dangerous dog designation. However, towards the end of writing this post (Aug 22), we learned from Thomas that after the 2010 incident, Denise sent Tank to Louisiana to live with her son. Shipping a dog across state lines to live with a relative is yet another sign the 2010 incident was serious. Owners of dangerous biting dogs commonly take these same measures. By the time Lorrie and Thomas begin staying at the center in April 2011, Tank is back.
11Not even the Montgomery County Police Reporter reported Lorrie's attack.
12An at large dog citation is a criminal offense in Texas (Sec. 826.034), but it was not the example provided as a "hypothetical" by the program. The provided example was a criminal citation for "owning a dangerous dog." In Texas, this citation (usually) has two requirements: 1.) The dog attacked previously and was given the legal designation of a dangerous dog and 2.) the dog attacked AGAIN. This is not true in other states. Many jurisdictions in the U.S. will cite an owner for "owning a dangerous dog" after the dog's first attack.
13Texas has a statewide tethering law (821.077), which also has an exclusion for "camping and recreational" areas:
Sec. 821.078. EXCEPTIONS. Section 821.077 does not apply to:
(2) a dog restrained in compliance with the requirements of a camping or recreational area as defined by a federal, state, or local authority or jurisdiction.
How would this apply to a private RV park, or would it at all? Chasing an ever-moving shadow, we contacted Montgomery County to see if we could learn more. The woman on the phone thought that a tethering law was a "leash law." When we pointed out these are two separate things, she forwarded the call to animal control. At that point we hung up, as animal control only offers a recorded message.
14You are Shit Out of Luck when a dog tethered to a 20 to 25 foot rope in a private RV park mauls you in an easement area, the strip between two lots and accessed by both parties.
15In the January fatal pit bull mauling of the Montgomery County boy, there was no crime either. The boy climbed over a fence into his neighbor's yard and was brutally attacked by a chained pit bull. It's perfectly okay for Texas dog owners to have "killing machines" in their yards, just as long as the animal does the mauling, maiming and killing on the dog owner's property.
16Such programs often emerge as the result of public outcry after too many serious and fatal dog maulings, which was the case in San Antonio. Montgomery County is well on their way to the same scenario. There is no need to wait for the deaths and injuries to keep piling up.
17Technically, one only has to prove the owner knew or should have known of the dog's vicious propensities. The One Free Bite term arose from the legal community because a documented previous bite is the easiest way to achieve this.
18To our knowledge, the loop occurs in all 50 states. In strict liability states, at least the first mauling is not free, contracting the loop. Though knowledge about "repeat offenders" is quite well understood in law enforcement, it is rarely applied to owners of dangerous dogs.
19After Lorrie was attacked, she said one of the RV park managers ran over to help. While she was down on the ground he blurted out something like, "You'll be okay! We'll run a marathon after this!" At this point, she was in shock, so his statement was that much more "surreal."
20Sunset Shores on Lake Conroe has a classic description in its park rules, "Pets must not have an aggressive nature or be of a breed generally considered aggressive by the public."
21Don't forget that the City of Willis is where the 2012 Spindletop pit bull rescue bust when down. Willis was also home to William David Townsend Jr., involved in drug-trafficking and fighting pit bulls and suspected in the 2006 murder of Thomas Weigner Jr. who ran a multi-million dollar pit bull breeding operation in Liberty County. Willis only has a population of about 6,000 people!
22We recommend driving through the entire East Texas region without stopping given its long known dogfighting history and its subsequent production of explosive maulers.
23We do not know the details of "under new management" that is shown on the park's website. We do know, according to Park on the Lake's Facebook page, that the new website was announced on November 1, 2012. Lorrie was attacked 11-days later, so presumably the "new management" was in place at the time she was attacked.
24According to our conversation with a GEICO RV insurance agent. She was very helpful.
25Rangers can issue and enforce citations. In Texas, state park Rangers have the discretion to determine if a pet is dangerous or poses a hazard. Section 59.134 (c)(2) "It is an offense for any person to" … (G) possess a noisy, vicious, or dangerous pet, or a pet which creates a disturbance to or hazard within a state park."
03/20/13: Report: Texas Dog Bite Fatalities, January 1, 2005 to February 17, 2013
01/20/13: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Chained Pit Bull Kills Montgomery County Boy
02/20/12: What Happens When A Victim Does Not Report a Dog Bite?
05/21/11: Texas Doctors Produce Study: Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs
09/19/10: Dog Attacks, Trends and Dog Law Coverage of Texas
Photos: Provided by Lorrie and Thomas | See: Full press release