Mt. Airy residents outraged after pit bull attacks

Residents gathered on Tuesday night to discuss the pit bulls. (John Corrigan/for NewsWorks)

Residents gathered on Tuesday night to discuss the pit bulls. (John Corrigan/for NewsWorks)

Barbara Patrizzi came home late from work on March 20, 2015 due to a blizzard and took her dog out back when she says two pit bulls burst out her Mt. Airy neighbor’s door and mauled her dog.

“I tried to throw [my dog] into my house, but I wasn’t fast enough,” Patrizzi said. The pit bulls flipped her dog over and bit his leg, hind quarters, and genital area, she said, while she screamed for their owner to call them off. As she dragged her wounded dog into the house, one of the pit bulls bit her hand.

“My vet wasn’t taking any more clients, so I had to drive out to Oaks in the blizzard with my bleeding hand to the emergency vet,” Patrizzi said.

Patrizzi recalled the nightmare in front of 20 residents inside Germantown Home on Tuesday. Maurice Sampson, Mt. Airy’s 22nd Ward committee member, headed the discussion along with Captain Sekou Kinebrew, head of the 14th District, Community Relations Officer Dennis Smith, and resident spokesman Michael Kleiner.

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Neighbors said three people and four dogs have been victims of the pit bulls since November 2013, when Michelle Nashleanas’ dog was bitten, sustaining nine puncture wounds.

“The dogs have to be removed from the neighborhood and the owner should be barred from getting future dogs,” Patrizzi said.

Numerous calls to the 14th District police department as well as the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) have resulted in no action being taken against the pit bulls and their owner. Kleiner said that police told neighbors to document anything they see by taking pictures, emailing them to the police department and calling 911, but that it was ACCT’s responsibility to remove the dogs.

According to Patrizzi, ACCT simply left a warning in the owner’s mailbox.

ACCT Assistant Director of Operations Tara Schernecke said the team can only issue citations for nuisances such as barking, dirty yard or dogs not being licensed.

“Our officers don’t have police power,” she said. “When a dog attacks a human or animal, that falls under the dangerous dog statute. If the police don’t file charges, there’s nothing Animal Control can do.”

“No one has been able to enforce the dangerous dog law that we have on the books in Pennsylvania,” said Pachi Mida, who says she was attacked on February 11 while stepping outside to clean the dog feces around her back door. Mida, who moved to the neighborhood in October, says the unleashed pit bulls charged her in the shared alleyway, biting her in the back of the thigh and in the calf.

Let them prove it

The pit bulls live with Ada Brooks, who said the neighbors have exaggerated the bites.

“This has become annoying and these people are ignorant,” said Brooks, who lives on the 100 block of West Sedgwick Street. Brooks says one of the dogs, Zion, belongs to her son and the other, Micah, was purchased by her son’s friend, but is licensed under her name. Brooks added that both dogs have microchips and updated rabies shots.

Only Zion is aggressive, said Brooks, and she has kept him muzzled since learning of the attack on Mida, which came under the watch of her son. Brooks said she apologized to Mida this past Saturday.

She was invited to attend the meeting, but she says she had to stay home per doctor’s orders following an automobile accident.

“Why all this nonsense about a couple dog fights,” Brooks said.

It’s more than a couple dog fights, according to Sampson, who said the goal is to have the pit bulls declared legally dangerous, forcing the dogs to be muzzled and leashed when off the owner’s property. The owner would have to pay $500 a year per dog for registration fees and the animals would be listed in the state’s dangerous dog registry.

“We have several neighbors who have pit bulls, and we don’t hear about them because they’re responsible,” Sampson said.

“It’s important for us to remember: it’s not the breed, it’s the deed,” Nashleanas added.

In order to be declared legally 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.

Police issue the citations before a judge decides. If the dog is declared, then the ACCT must ensure that the owner complies with the sanctions.

The incident with Mida has led police to issue a summary citation, compelling Brooks to attend a court hearing in which a judge will determine whether the pit bulls are legally dangerous.

“Because we all love animals, we don’t want the dog just taken right away,” Kinebrew said. “Not to be graphic, but usually if they take your dog, your dog is getting put down.”

Brooks says her court date is April 7.

“If they want to take my dogs away, let them prove it,” Brooks said. “If they’re dangerous, let them prove it.”

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