Note: iHeartDogs believes that there’s no such thing as a bad breed – just negligent owners. For that reason, we have kept the name of the owner out of this post. Click here to skip down to updates.
January 9, 2021, was supposed to be a nice day for the Waldroup family. Three-year-old Ronin, her parents, and a family friend visited a popular shopping district just outside Houston, Texas, for lunch. But then their day took a turn for the worse, thanks to one irresponsible dog owner.
Now, a dog will lose his life, and a little girl is experiencing emotional and physical pain that no kid her age should know.
As the Waldroup family walked into the Loose Caboose Restaurant in Old Town Spring, they passed a table where a dog in a service vest sat with a woman and a man. Suddenly, the dog leaped forward and sunk his teeth into Ronin’s face for no apparent reason at all. Ronin’s mother, Cleveratta Waldroup, told a local news station about the incident with tears in her eyes,
“He grabbed her by the face and he shook her and I saw my baby hit the ground like a little rag doll. The first thing my best friend did was grab her and put her in my arms.”
The two women rushed Ronin away from the dog and into the bathroom and did their best to stop the bleeding. Meanwhile, the other customer immediately grabbed her dog and rushed out into the parking lot – not to get him away from the other restaurant patrons, but to make an escape. When Ronin’s father, James Waldroup, realized that the woman was getting away, he followed behind, recording with his phone.
“I started yelling at her, ‘You can’t leave, this is an accident. You can’t leave.’”
The woman didn’t slow down, and she didn’t apologize. In fact, she said very little – but what she did say was outrageously shocking.
“She had the gall to turn around and tell me it was my daughter’s fault.”
As the woman drove away, little Ronin was still in the bathroom with her mother – scared, hurt, and bleeding from her face.
“For them to not show any compassion or any remorse to even stop and ask if my baby was OK,” Mrs. Waldroup says, “it goes beyond words.”
Police and an ambulance soon arrived. However, by that time, the woman, her friend, and the dog were all long gone. But if she thought she made a clean getaway, she was mistaken. Mr. Waldroup had her license plate on the video on his phone, and another passerby had also taken video of Mr. Waldroup trying to get her to be responsible for what happened.
Warning: strong language
Five days later the dog, named Kingston, was found. The Harris County Sherriff’s Office had tracked the woman down and asked her to surrender her dog until it could be determined whether he was dangerous. She gave him up without a fight, and he was placed in the care of Montgomery County Animal Services until a trial could be held.
Kaydin Downey, who specializes in Service Dog education and is acting as liaison representative for the Waldroup family, has been very involved in the ongoing legal proceedings and has filled iHeartDogs in on some of the more scattered details.
Upon investigation, it was found that this was not Kingston’s first attack. There had been multiple incidents in the past, including a bite last year to his owner’s roommate’s face. The woman was rushed to the E.R. where her upper lip was stitched back onto her face. The bite was not initially reported, but in November 2020, the roommate filed a civil lawsuit.
Downey states that not only did this woman continue to keep Kingston in her home, but she would also walk him in public without taking any precautions to warn others that they may want to keep their distance. Kingston never wore any warning patches or even a yellow ribbon. However, he did wear a service vest that his owner purchased for him along with a card that she purchased online, identifying Kingston as a service dog. With his vest on, he was taken into shops and restaurants, like the Loose Caboose where Ronin was injured.
Now, because this woman chose to parade Kingston around town in his vest, he is expected to be euthanized sometime within the coming days. Downey stresses that the family is typically against the idea of euthanizing a dog, but because Kingston has injured so many people in the past, they feel it is the safest choice for others.
“In general, the family is against euthanization… but this dog has had previous bite cases before, and she [the owner] has continued to put a service dog vest and continued not to just take it on walks unmuzzled, but to take it in mass groups of people like restaurants and stores.”
This is not the first time that this owner has ended up in court over a dangerous dog. In 2013 she was involved in what is known in rescue circles as “The Gus Case.” She was forced to surrender “Gus” after he bit multiple victims, including a woman caring for him at a boarding facility. She had been told that he had no behavioral issues despite biting humans before.
The owner had lied about her qualifications as a dog trainer, and a judge found her to be criminally negligent. Gus was spared from death in Texas and sent to Cesar Millan’s Dog Psychology Center in California. Unfortunately, he could not be rehabilitated and was later euthanized after biting another person.
We truly believe that there are bad owners but no bad breeds. With proper care and training, these dogs might have lived normal lives. However, even after the attacks, this owner made no effort to fix very apparent issues.
At only three years old, Ronin has more surgeries in her future. In the coming weeks, her stitches will be removed and her face reconstructed. The family has high hopes that, because she is so young, she will heal quickly – but it’s clear that they’re all still carrying emotional scars.
“Ronin is so young so she’s physically healing really well, but emotionally she’s struggling. Her parents are doing a wonderful job being supportive and letting her heal at her own time. She had a really great connection and understanding about dogs before the incident, so it will just be a process.”
Ronin’s family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for Ronin’s medical needs and legal expenses. Once all is said and done, they hope to help change laws to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
“But after this dust has settled, my husband and I have decided that we will be proactive in changing the laws for service animals and training. We love service animals of all breeds and sizes but as we are going through this we are finding more information that just about anyone can purchase a service animal vest online or wherever to have their pet out in public. Whether we have to go through the courts system or take it all the way up to the lawmakers we know that with proper legal action we can change the course of action for future circumstances.”
So far, courts have only determined whether Kingston was dangerous and have sentenced him to be euthanized. For the moment, it’s unclear whether the county will pursue charges against his owner, but Downey expects to find out within the next week or two.
“I would assume falsifying a pet as a Service Animal, and fleeing the scene at least.”
Unfortunately, though Kingston is losing his life, Texas law may make the punishment his owner receives for knowingly putting him and other people in dangerous situations no more than a slap on the wrist.
“No such thing as a ‘fake’ service dog”
iHeartDogs has shared stories similar to this one – stories where owners pop a service vest on their pets and take them out, only to have them react or attack another dog or person. Or we hear from people who genuinely need their service dog and are frustrated and sad that others who pass their pets off as service dogs cause them to get turned away from businesses.
Most of the feedback we hear from our readers supports service dog laws and education – but a surprising number of people argue that there’s no such thing as a “fake” service dog. There is a lot of ignorance around the subject of service dogs and service dog laws.
This is wrong. And it’s not just me saying so – it’s the law that says so.
A service dog is defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act – which permits service animals in businesses and other public areas – as:
“dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities… Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.“
This means that your untrained pet, emotional support dog, or therapy dog does not qualify as a service animal. As such, businesses are not required to permit entry to those animals.
Of course, we love to see dogs everywhere we go, but this is a public safety issue. The people who choose to selfishly purchase a service vest for their untrained dogs for the purpose of convenience are taking advantage of a law meant to protect the privacy of people who are truly disabled.
Read it again, please – if you are passing your untrained dog off as a service dog, you are taking advantage of genuinely disabled people, who would probably love not to need a dog to accompany them in public.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is written in a way to protect the privacy of people who are disabled. Businesses may ask those with service dogs only two questions:
Is this dog a service dog, and what task does it perform? And nothing else.
Unfortunately, this protective law makes it extremely easy for selfish tricksters to get away with bringing their pets along with them, and the number of people who commit service dog fraud is on the rise. It’s important to know that not only do “fake” service dogs exist but so does service dog fraud and the fines and jail time that comes along with it. For now, only a few states have laws against faking a service dog, but we hope more establish similar laws in the future.
Click here to read about the Important Differences Between Service Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs, And Therapy Dogs.
Kaydin Downey contributed information about the Waldroup family’s ongoing case and Ronin’s recovery. She is the owner and founder of Hamilton at Your Service LLC., which provides service dog law education and support to businesses to help them know how to accommodate service dogs and understand service dog laws. Hamilton is her service dog. Learn more about Hamilton at Your Service LLC. at ServiceDogEducation.com. Thank you, Kaydin.
It has been just under a month since the terrible incident occurred. Kaydin Downey has kept in touch with iHeartDogs to keep us updated on this continuing situation.
Ronin is continuing to heal inside and out. Recent social media posts from her family show that, though she had a terrible experience with one dog, there’s hope that she won’t live her life in fear of all dogs. With family’s help, she’s understanding that, though this went through something horrifying, dogs are still good.
According to Downey, Kingston’s owner decided not to appeal the court’s decision to have Kingston euthanized, and he crossed the Rainbow Bridge sometime during the last weekend of January 2021. We’d like to remind our readers that the Waldroup family does not believe in euthanizing dogs, but given his repeated dangerous behavior and his owner’s record of raising dogs known to bite multiple people and not seek help, they felt it was the safest option for others. iHeartDogs believes that every single dog is precious, and we feel heartbroken that had his owner never made efforts to correct his behavior and decided instead to take him into areas where they put Kingston and others in danger. He might still be alive otherwise.
Downey has also let us know that the family’s interest in working to reform laws regarding service animals was met with some disdain. This Saturday, February 6, 2021, at 10 AM CST, Kaydin will be joined by Ronin’s mother, Cece Waldroup, to address these concerns and answer questions live on social media.
“With the Waldroup’s talking about ‘reform’ there has been a lot of concerns coming from allies & the disabled service dog community. Key things like the ‘ADA is perfectly clear and there’s no reason to change it, only enforcing it’, ‘an abled body shouldn’t be fighting for disabled rights’, etc.“To clear up confusion and concerns Hamilton at your Service, LLC is hosting an exclusive Q&A LIVE with Cece Waldroup this Saturday. “
Follow Hamilton at Your Service LLC on Facebook to watch or participate.