Animals Dogs
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 24, 2016

Pair of killer dogs face uncertain fate — for now

Dogs believed to have mauled Lab mix to death after escaping fenced yard

A pair of pit bull-type dogs believed to have mauled another dog to death in front of its horrified owner last week face the possibility of being euthanized now that their owner has failed to reclaim them.

The owner could have paid $550 to the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia to cover six citations, shelter fees, microchipping and neutering.

That would have allowed the owner to reclaim the dogs, though he faced additional costs, restrictions and safeguards if once the dogs were formally deemed "dangerous" under state law, a process which could take a few days to a few weeks, according to ACCT spokeswoman Audra Houghton.

ACCT must now decide if the animals can be rehabilitated – or if they should be euthanized, Houghton added.

The unleashed dogs had mortally wounded Ilsa, a Lab/beagle mix, mauling the smaller dog on Friday, Dec. 16, at 23rd Street and Fairmount Avenue.

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.


The attack came just feet from Ilsa's owner Edith Bissell, a medical writer and editor, who was walking her leashed dog just before dawn.

She’s been told the owner of the male and female dogs which viciously attacked her smaller pet, had claimed his dogs had escaped from a fenced yard off Oxford Street, blocks away from the attack.

Bissell, who had adopted her mixed-breed rescue and named her Ilsa after the female lead in the movie "Casablanca,” has mixed feelings about the dogs which killed her pet.

But she squarely blames their owner.

“He, the owner, did not just kill my dog, he has devastated my family. He stole all of this,” she said.

Bissell has filed a police report, which was part of the process of having the attacking animal declared dangerous. 

She intends to take legal action against the owner of the killer dogs. She believes she may only be able to recover the value of her pet, plus the veterinary fees incurred before it was decided to euthanize Ilsa.

“But I want a statement, a public statement. This guy needs to be aware of the damage he has done,” said Bissell, who remains fearful and has avoided walking on Fairmount, the neighborhood’s business corridor.

“Yes, I’m worried about myself. The man who came to my aid during the attack said those dogs were coming for me next. But I am terrified for my friends and parents are up in arms.”

One of them is her neighbor, Jennifer Taft, a dog-owner who walks her Labradoodle at all hours because of the odd shifts she works as a nurse. Taft has taken to driving outside her neighborhood to walk her dog, feeling the safety situation is unsettled.

“I’d be terrified if I were a parent. The whole thing is sad. People are scared, very upset. I feel like the city is not doing enough,” Taft added.

Bissell, who said she intends to become an advocate for better enforcement of leash laws, would like to adopt another dog.

But for now, she said she still feels too unsafe in her neighborhood.

Houghton, whose agency is without police powers and is bound by state law, understands.

“The entire situation is terrible. It could have been avoided,” she said.

She added that ACCT planned to work with Bissell, police and the district attorney to have the dogs declared dangerous should they be returned to their owner.

Dangerous dogs must be held in double-fenced yards, and must be muzzled and leashed when walked. Owners pay a $500 registration fee for each animal and a $500,000 liability insurance policy is required for each animal.

A “hard decision” will be made about the fate of the dogs, said Houghton.

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