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March 08, 2016

Mount Airy neighbors await help on 'dangerous' pit bulls

Residents say three people and four dogs have been bitten by the pit bulls, whose owner says that is an exaggeration

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02-030716_DangerousDogs_Carroll.jpg Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

One of two pit bulls that Mount Airy neighbors claim has them living in fear barks from its owner's porch. Several neighbors claim the pit bulls have bitten three residents and four dogs over the last three years on the 100 block of West Sedgwick Street.

Pashi Mida had taken two steps out her back door on Feb. 11 when she said a pair of unleashed – and unprovoked – pit bulls owned by a neighbor immediately charged her from a shared alleyway behind her Mount Airy home.

"One bites me in the back of the thigh," recalled Mida, who had moved into the neighborhood in November. "I guess he didn't have enough bite, so he bit again. The other one ran up and bit me in the calf."

"We can't seem to get any type of authority to take any type of action. This is several attacks against animals and people." – Barbara Patrizzi, resident and dog bite victim

Mida said she suffered multiple puncture wounds that were tended by another neighbor, Dr. Michelle Nashleanas. The attack left her fearful of the dogs, a feeling shared by several of her neighbors living on or near the 100 block of West Sedgwick Street in Northwest Philadelphia.

Several residents claim the dogs are dangerous, alleging the pit bulls have bitten at least three people and four dogs during the last three years, according to Michael Kleiner, a spokesman for the residents. They claim the owners have done little to assuage their fears and say authorities have failed to hold the owners responsible.

In search of a resolution, the neighbors have called a community meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Germantown Home. They have invited 14th District police officers and representatives from Animal Care and Control Team, the nonprofit agency contracted by the city of Philadelphia to handle animal control responsibilities.

"We can't seem to get any type of authority to take any type of action," said Barbara Patrizzi, who, along with her dog, was bitten by one of the pit bulls in March 2015. "This is several attacks against animals and people."

Some neighbors, including Nashleanas, said they want the dogs declared legally dangerous, a distinction that would require the dogs to be muzzled and leashed when taken off the owner's property. The dogs also would need to be confined in a proper enclosure and placed on the state's dangerous dog registry, among other requirements.

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Mount Airy resident Pashi Mida says she was bitten by two pit bulls after stepping outside her house into this alleyway, which runs behind the houses on the 100 block of West Sedgwick Street.


'THERE IS NOTHING ELSE I CAN DO'

The pit bulls live with Ada Brooks on the 100 block of West Sedgwick Street. One of the dogs, Zion, belongs to her son, who has since moved out, Brooks said. The other, Micah, was purchased by her son's friend, but is licensed under her name, Brooks said.

Brooks admitted the dogs have bitten other people and animals, but said her neighbors are exaggerating the situation. She placed the total number of incidents at three. 

Brooks said only Zion is aggressive and that she has kept him muzzled since learning of the Feb. 11 incident, which came under the watch of her son. The dogs have microchips, updated rabies shots and licenses, Brooks said.

"I'm sorry that they're intimidated. I really am sorry about that. I would love for my neighbors and I to be speaking again." – Ada Brooks, owner of the pit bulls

"There is nothing else I can do," Brooks said.

Brooks said she only learned of the latest incident last week and apologized to Mida on Saturday. She said she is unable to attend Tuesday's meeting, but would have sat quietly and listened to their concerns.

"I'm sorry that they're intimidated," Brooks said. "I really am sorry about that. I would love for my neighbors and I to be speaking again."

But some neighbors questioned her accountability, claiming the pit bulls often have been permitted outside without a leash in the past or left unattended on the front porch. They expressed concern that the dogs could maim a child.

"I can understand one incident," Patrizzi said. "But then you take some kind of precaution. You keep your dogs muzzled. You keep them on a leash or something. These owners just don't seem to have any sense of responsibility."

Patrizzi was bitten in the hand when she tried to rescue her dog, an Australian cattle border/collie mix, from the pit bulls. She had let her dog into the shared alleyway to relieve itself, when the pit bulls allegedly attacked. Her dog suffered several puncture wounds near its abdomen, hind legs and genitals that required about $900 in veterinarian bills, she said.

Brooks said she was at fault for letting her dogs off the leash, saying she did not anticipate other dogs being in the alley at that time. Brooks said she still intends to cover those bills.

"I was very, very sorry," Brooks said. "It bothered me and it still bothers me that Zion did that to her and the dog."

Brooks' neighbors also are frustrated with the lack of response from the police and ACCT. Mida, Patrizzi and Nashleanas, whose dog allegedly was bitten by the pit bulls in November 2013, said they each filed police reports following the incidents. But they claim police are failing to enforce dangerous dog laws.

Capt. Sekou Kinenebrew, head of the 14th Police District, did not respond to a message seeking comment on the situation.

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Some neighbors on the 100 block of West Sedgwick Street in Mount Airy want a pair of pit bulls owned by a resident to be declared dangerous.


DESIGNATING 'DANGEROUS DOGS'

To be declared dangerous, a judge must determine that an unprovoked dog attacked, inflicted severe injury or killed a human or domestic animal while off its owner's property, according to Pennsylvania's dog law. The owner must either euthanize the dog or adhere to a set of strict and costly regulations.

But the "dangerous dog" designation has not been applied to Philadelphia dogs as frequently as it has elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia has 12 dangerous dogs listed on the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement's registry. That is far below the 175 listed in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. But at this time last year, no Philadelphia dogs were listed until PhillyVoice inquired about the absence.

At the time, the information was not being sufficiently reported to the state. The bureau subsequently mailed letters to Philadelphia police and the District Attorney's Office reiterating their roles in reporting dangerous dog cases.

Police are responsible for issuing citations before a judge can decide whether a dog should be declared dangerous. If it is, ACCT is responsible for ensuring that dangerous dog owners meet various stipulations.

ACCT Assistant Director of Operations Tara Schernecke did not return a call seeking comment on the West Mount Airy situation. But she said in December that ACCT is responsible only for ensuring dangerous dog owners meet the regulations.

"We can't do any kind of follow-up if charges aren't filed," Schernecke said.

Nashleanas, who spent about $800 in vet and training bills following the 2013 incident involving her dog, has high aspirations for Tuesday's meeting. But she remains pessimistic.

"I expect a citation and I expect a court date and I expect to be notified of when it is," Nashleanas said. "I don't think I'm going to get it."

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