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from The Houston Chronicle
Victim's husband says dogs weren't aggressive earlier
July 18, 2002, 12:43AM
By RUTH RENDON
SPLENDORA -- A 52-year-old woman who raised pit bull terriers was killed after being mauled by four of them she had raised from puppies, the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Wednesday.
Bernard Lee Carter returned from work about 7 p.m. Tuesday to find the dogs standing over Dorothy Carter, his wife of six years. She was face down in an enclosed back porch, Splendora police Sgt. Mark Seals said.
"There were a lot of bites all over her," Seals said of the bloody scene. "It's probably the worst I've seen."
Carter was pronounced dead at the scene by Cynthia McMillan, Montgomery County Precinct 4 justice of the peace.
A preliminary report late Wednesday from the Harris County Medical Examiner's office said Carter died of dog bites. Earlier, officials speculated she might have died as a result of a seizure before being attacked.
But Seals said the medical examiner's office reported no evidence that Carter had suffered a seizure before the attack.
As a result, Seals said he would ask McMillan for an order to destroy the dogs. McMillan had ordered the dogs impounded. She said a veterinarian had given them medication to empty their stomachs.
"It's so gross I can't tell you," McMillan said of the incident, which occurred at the Carter home on Shadow Briar Lane in the Deerbrook subdivision.
Carter was severely disfigured and had deep wounds to her arms and legs, Seals said.
Officers at the Montgomery County Animal Control, where the dogs are being kept, said the animals -- two of them males -- weigh between 45 and 100 pounds.
Her husband said they range in age from 3 1/2 years to 9 months.
The youngest dog, Bud, was Dorothy Carter's lap dog, her husband said.
Carter, 50, a mechanic, said the dogs were his wife's protectors. When she recently suffered a seizure in bed, he said, the dogs tried to get her up by pulling on her hair.
"They always protected her. They were probably trying to get her to get up," a teary-eyed Carter said while sitting in the living room of his home. "In my mind that's what happened."
He suspects his wife had a seizure in the morning and fell. She was still wearing her morning coat when he found her, he said.
Carter said when he left for work at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, his wife was up. He said if she didn't take her medication early, she would tend to forget. Her seizures, he said, had become more severe recently, causing her to fall and hit her head several times.
Although pit bull terriers are perceived as vicious, Carter said his four dogs had never exhibited aggression toward him or his wife.
"They've never bitten anybody. They've never harmed any other animal. I don't know what happened," he said. He described the pets as indoor dogs that were prone to sleeping on couches.
"They wouldn't hurt anybody," he said.
Police have no history of calls to the residence, located on about two acres on a dead-end street, related to animals, Seals said. The one time police went to the home was when Dorothy Carter thought someone was trying to break in, he said.
Carter said the dogs would bark if anyone walked onto their property, enclosed by a 400-foot chain-link fence. An electric fence on top of that is designed to keep the dogs in and stray animals out, he said.
The dogs had not left the property in more than a year, except when the couple would take the oldest male, Jack, for a ride in the car, he said.
Carter described Jack as "fat and always just laid around."
Carter said he and his wife had been raising pit bulls for about 3 1/2 years and would sell them.
"Nobody has ever had any problems with them," he said. "We've never had any problems with them."
Neighbor Christie Hantelman, who lives across the street, said the dogs were not aggressive. Nevertheless, she would not go to the home because of the animals.
"I thought she had a seizure and had died from that. I was shocked the dogs had done that," she said.
Carter is contemplating how to pay for his wife's funeral expenses. His wife, he said, wanted to be cremated and her ashes spread on their property.
"I had so many plans for me and her," he said, including improvements to their home, which they had lived in six years. Their plans were sidetracked when she lost her job with an auto parts store. That meant not only the loss of income but also the loss of the couple's medical insurance.
The couple met while Dorothy Carter was delivering parts to the auto mechanic shop where Bernard Carter worked.
He said they had kept to themselves of late, especially since her health had started failing.
"We really didn't get out much. We mainly stayed at home and would work in the yard," said Carter, apologizing for the overgrown grass. A broken lawn mower, he said, had not been repaired or replaced.
"She loved this place. She picked out the house," he said of the couple's manufactured home. "She picked out the lot. We just wanted to live here and have a happy life."
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