THE PEN LINDA HURLEY KEPT HER DUCKS IN
When Linda Hurley heard the news that children had been attacked by the dogs, she went door to door in her neighborhood, trying to find out who the victims were.
She already knew a lot of victims, but those were animals – mostly cats and her own tame ducks. Two dogs – BOTH PIT BULLS – had been terrorizing the neighborhood for weeks, she said.
But these victims were children. She had to find out whose children they were, Hurley said. It just wasn’t right. Something should’ve been done before those children were hurt.
And Hurley wasn’t the only one on Circle Drive – a tree-lined community of attractive mobile homes – who’d been waiting for something terrible to happen.
Many residents had a story about those dogs, she said. All of the stories were similar. The dogs were trouble. People started carrying weapons. They stopped walking their own dogs. They called authorities. Hurley herself doesn’t own a gun, but she started carrying a box blade.
"It was just a matter of who it was going to be," said Hurley.
Finally it happened Monday morning around 7:30. An 11-year-old girl was mauled by one dog, and her 17-year-old sister was bitten by the second dog while trying to get the first animal off the child. The sisters were waiting for their school bus when the dogs attacked. Finally, Hurley discovered the identities of the children. The children’s house is a few hundred yards away, easily visible through a thin line of trees. Hurley has lived 14 years in the previously pleasant community backed by Deep Creek. She doesn’t know all of her neighbors well, but there’s never been trouble here..... UNTIL THE DOGS MOVED IN.
The trouble started in the summer when a family moved into one of the few run-down trailers on the drive. No one knew much about them except the woman’s name. But they came to know the dogs too well, they say.
THE TREE WHERE THE DOGS WERE KEPT TIED
Alysia West has lived on Circle Drive for two years now. “These dogs are crazy,” she said. One night her grown daughter came home from the night shift at Perdue, and the dogs chased her car as she drove past that first trailer. She drove the circle and finally parked at her home, but the dogs stood barking outside the car. Finally she called West, who opened the door and the woman rushed inside.
It wasn’t West’s only run-in with the dogs. On Christmas Eve, her two elementary-aged grandchildren and her nephews, one also elementary-school age and the other a boy in middle school, were walking West’s puppy when the dogs came after them, she said. The children picked up the puppy and ran to West's home. They rushed inside, but the male pit bull barged inside behind them. The oldest boy somehow forced the dog back outside, but it was “scary,” said West.“You don’t want that to happen to your kids,” she said.
There are plenty of other stories, too. One man near the bus stop said he’d stopped walking his dog in his own yard. When he went outside, he carried a heavy stick.
Hurley kept several Muscovy ducks in a heavy-gauge chain link dog pen. Two weeks ago her fiancé John Lauer heard noise in their backyard at 3 a.m. He went outside, and the dogs were tearing holes in the chain link. They killed four ducks before running when Lauer yelled. The dead ducks remained in the pen. The rest flew across the creek and didn’t come back until the dogs were picked up Monday, Hurley said.
"They didn't eat the ducks," said Hurley. "An animal that kills just to kill -- that's different."
Pet cats disappeared, too. No one witnessed the cat killings, it seems, but they weren’t vanishing before the dogs arrived, people said. Several residents told how the dogs ripped away the skirting from at least two trailers hunting cats.
Finally, the terror culminated with Monday’s bus-stop attack on the girls.
“This has been going on,” Hurley said. “This is the ultimate worst-case scenario of nothing being done. “Someone needs to be held accountable .”Residents complained about the dogs. One man said he called the sheriff's office 14 times. Most of the other residents said they called the law more than once, too. Deputies did come out to investigate. But, it was uncanny. Each time the officers arrived the dogs were tied or penned. As soon as the officers would leave, the dogs would be loose again.
“Unless they’re running at large, we can’t seize them,” said Sheriff Todd Godwin, who seemed to be as frustrated Wednesday by local dog law as everyone else. He said the officers did what they could, according to the law. They couldn’t confiscate dogs that were confined. He hadn’t heard of the apparent cat killings.
Oddly, the ducks might’ve been different. There’s an old penalty on the books regarding fowl, said Godwin. The law says officers must destroy a dog if they see it killing fowl.And, of course, if a dog bites a person, the animal is seized and the case is investigated.“
A bite case changes everything,” said Godwin, adding that residents have the right to protect themselves and their property from danger. Otherwise, a resident can file a complaint with the magistrate, he said. A judge would decide the case. Two people have filed complaints with the magistrate about these dogs, Godwin said, but the cases hadn’t gone to court yet.
He saw the photographs of the girl’s wounds. He said he wished somehow he could’ve been there at the bus stop. He would’ve stopped the dogs, he said. They’re stopped permanently now, said Godwin. They’re being held 10 days to check for rabies and then they’ll be euthanized. “I’m not going to release those dogs,” he said. “The civil part of it we have no control over.“We have nothing to do with it at all.”
Mariana Hernandez likes the police. When she was released from the hospital in Norfolk yesterday, she insisted her mother drive her directly to the sheriff’s office. She was the 11-year-old in the attack, and she wanted to thank the deputies. They’d sent gifts to her at the hospital. When she arrived at the
Accomac office, they came out to the car and spoke to her so kindly and gave her more gifts, said her mother, Tonya Hernandez.
Mariana can’t walk for now. Her right calf was shredded "LIKE HAMBURGER MEAT," said her mother. Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters told her the dog had had its jaws nearly around Mariana’s leg and it was shaking her. They could tell by the nature of her wounds. The photographs are “horrific,” said several people, and they’re right. The dog also damaged her left leg and her buttock. She’s in severe pain, despite medication. She’ll need physical therapy and multiple doctor’s visits, said Hernandez, who works part-time as a
Both girls must undergo a series of rabies shots. Mariana has already had 13 injections – doctors had to insert the needles in a circle pattern around the wound.
Mariana's 17-year-old sister, Victoria, said she woke with a premonition that something bad was going to happen that day. She just didn’t know what it would be, she said. They walked to the end of their lane. Moments later, the girls saw the dogs approaching. THERE ACTUALLY WERE 3 PIT BULLS THERE, Victoria said.
No one else was in sight. Victoria wasn’t worried, she said, but she knew her sister would be.
“I told her, try not to be scared. Don’t panic. She panicked anyway,” said Victoria. The male dog “nipped” Mariana at first. “I started to look for something to hit him with,” Victoria said. Her sister was trying to hide behind her and the attack escalated faster than Victoria could think.
Next, her sister was clinging to one of the large pines nearby and Victoria was breaking fallen tree limbs over the dog with no effect. Meanwhile, the female dog attacked Victoria.
“I didn’t realize I was getting bit,” she said. She was too focused on the dog mauling her sister. It never occurred to her to run. “I was not going to leave my sister there,” she said. With nothing else to use, she resorted to punching the dog. Her right hand is still visibly bruised.
Finally, the dogs ran away.
The third dog was loose Wednesday morning, though a neighbor on apparently good terms with the owner put it in his empty pen soon afterwards. It’s a smart dog though, he says. It’s figured how to dig out.The man, who declined to be identified, had just gotten off the phone with the owner who was at work, he said. When asked how to get in touch with her, he said he’d call her back. A woman’s voice was audible, and he said reporters would like to talk with her. But she had no comment, the neighbor said. He did identify the dogs. The male is named Ace and the female is called Fancy. THEY RECENTLY HAD A LITTER OF PUPPIES, THOUGH MOST HAVE BEEN SOLD NOW. THE PUPPIES WERE SELLING QUICKLY FOR $25 A PIECE.
Meanwhile, Hernandez is wondering how to manage financially and otherwise. She’s a single mother of three. Mariana needs a wheelchair, and she doesn’t have one. Her great-aunt,
Janice Murphy, gave one of several young relatives $5 for gas money to drive to pick up Mariana’s medications. Hernandez’s cousin, Tammy Bennett, who is an EMT, said the family tries hard. She teared up when she told how 19-year-old Hector Hernandez is set to enter the Marines in a couple of weeks. He said he signed up so he could help his mother, Bennett said.“If it hadn’t been for (Mariana’s) older sister,” said Bennett, “There was a possibility it could have been much worse. She’s a good big sister.”
Meanwhile, the family doesn’t blame the sheriff’s department. They blame the law and the dogs’ owner.“The laws need to be changed,” said Hernandez. Murphy said owners of pit bulls should be required to have insurance for the dogs. They should be held accountable for the actions of their dogs.The family is looking into legal action regarding the attack. The medical bills will be significant. Meanwhile, they need a wheelchair and extra-large adult sweatpants for Mariana. Anyone who wants to help can reach Murphy at 710-6983 or 787-1033.
As for Hurley, she is glad the situation is being publicized. She’d naturally be reluctant to get involved, she said, and she’d never want publicity for herself, but something needs to change. It shouldn’t have happened.
“This could’ve been prevented,” Hurley said.