Animals Attacks
Ilsa killed2 Photo courtesy/Edith Bissell

Edith Bissell's dog, Ilsa, was viciously attacked by a pair of free-running pit bulls before dawn Friday morning in Spring Garden. The Lab mix, named after the female lead in the classic movie "Casablanca," was so badly injured that she had to be euthanized.

December 17, 2016

Deadly dog attack in Fairmount, owner says one animal in custody

'We’re all nervous in the neighborhood'

Out of the pre-dawn dark of Friday morning, a pair of roaming pit bull-type dogs made a beeline for Ilsa, a Lab/beagle mix walking the Fairmount neighborhood with owner Edith Bissell.

Bissell, whose dog could not be saved due to multiple severe mortal wounds to its neck and face, froze for a moment as the pair pounced on her 45-pound dog, viciously biting her smaller animal.

On a short leash, the deadly attack happened just feet from Bissell at 23rd Street and Fairmount Avenue, in front of a Sunoco station.

Bissell and Ilsa, named for a favorite character in the movie “Casablanca,” had never encountered the two dogs – both tan colored, muscular and broad-chested – during their routine 5:30 a.m. walks.

“These were fighting dogs. No question. They had no sociability. They were programmed to fight. Whoever trained them should go to jail,” she said Saturday morning.

Bissell, 43, was deeply shaken by the loss of a pet she’s had for six years and the belated realization that she too could have been attacked.

A freelance medical writer and editor who lives near the scene of the attack, Bissell said she began screaming, “Someone come get these dogs! I was screaming like crazy.”

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Blood stains the sidewalk in front of the Sunoco gas station at 23rd Street and Fairmount Avenue, where two loose dogs pit bulls attacked another dog on Friday, December 16, 2016.


Several people came to aid Bissell and her dog, but to no avail.

A 911 call was made. 

A good Samaritan in an SUV drove at the attacking dogs, scaring one off.

Someone from the nearby gas station beat the remaining dog with a plastic bat, eventually running it off.

The good Samaritan loaded Ilsa, who was bleeding profusely, into his SUV.

A responding Philly police officer escorted the SUV to Penn Vet's Ryan Hospital in University City, arriving in fewer than 10 minutes from the time Ilsa was placed into the vehicle.

Within 30 minutes Bissell was told that the cost to simply stabilize her dog would run about $10,000 – and even with that there would be no guarantee of her surviving for even 48 hours.

And even if -- a big if -- Ilsa pulled through the first two days, there would be additional bills to repair the extensive damage she had suffered.

Bissell, who momentarily considered selling her house to pay the staggering vet bill, made the hard choice to put her beloved pet down.

Bissell, who had grown up with dogs, said Ilsa was the first dog she had gotten after buying a home and slowing down her travel schedule.

The Lab mix, who was eight years old, was a rescue which came from the Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals in Radnor, said Bissell.

Beaten by a previous owner, Ilsa remained a bit skittish and was not inclined to play with other dogs, her owner recalled.

“But once she got to know you, she wanted to cuddle up. She was really loving with children. My nephew was all over her, pulling her ears.

“In some ways she was like a cat. I swear she purred sometimes,” remembered Bissell.

While some of the shock has worn off, Bissell’s apprehension has increased, realizing she too could have been badly bitten.

Bissell said a contact with Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia told her last night that a pit bull had last night been captured near the scene.

But she said she was told there was no way of confirming if it was one of the attacking dogs.

ACCT could not be reached for comment or additional details Saturday.

“We’re all nervous in the neighborhood,” said Bissell.