Folklore, as is often the case, has it wrong.
Pep apparently was guilty of nothing more than chewing up sofa cushions, and, once it was decided he lacked the proper decorum to live at the governor’s mansion, he was sent to the prison in Philadelphia by Gov. Gifford Pinchot.
That was done not so much as punishment, but to provide him a home and see if he could aid in the rehabilitation of inmates, according to the governor’s papers.
Apparently a newspaper reporter came up with the tall tale of the dog sentenced to prison for cat murder, and a mugshot taken of Pep at the prison supplied some credence to the story.
Despite attempts to set the record straight, the myth lingers to this day.
According to EasternState.org, a non-profit group that now runs a haunted house at the abandoned prison, Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog” was admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary on August 12, 1924.
“Prison folklore tells us that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot used his executive powers to sentence Pep to life without parole for killing his wife’s cherished cat,” the website says, adding that prison records, including Pep being assigned his own inmate number (C-2559), support the story.
It notes that the governor had a different version of what happened — namely that he sent Pep to Eastern to act as a mascot for the prisoners. The governor, it says, was a friend of the warden, Herbert “Hard-Boiled” Smith.
A more thorough account of how Pep landed in prison can be found on the website Suite101.com.
Pep, that story explains, was a gift to Gov. Pinchot during his first gubernatorial term (1923–1927), from the nephew of his wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot. The nephew bred Labrador retrievers. But the gift turned out to be a destructive one. Pep developed a habit of chewing on the cushions of the front porch sofa.
“… Pinchot decided that Pep had to go, but for the sake of family harmony he did not want to end the dog’s life,” the Suite101 account says. “Fortunately, an official trip gave him the idea for a convenient way of getting the dog out of his home. On a visit to Maine, Pinchot had seen dogs that were used as therapy to help inmates. So when the governor got back to Pennsylvania he decided to give the troublesome Pep to Eastern State Penitentiary as a pet.”
At the time, some inmates kept pigeons and mice as pets, but not dogs. The only dogs at the prison were guard dogs, there to ensure prisoners stayed inside and in line.
But the inmates quickly developed a fondness for Pep, and apparently vice versa. Pep lived among the inmates at Eastern State for about a decade until he was transferred to newly constructed state prison called Graterford.
Two years after he was sent to Eastern, in 1926, Cornelia Bryce-Pinchot issued a statement to the New York Times in an attempt to clear Pep’s name.
Governor Pinchot’s son also maintained that there was no murder involved.
“A newspaper reporter with a sense of humor and disregard for the truth wrote that Pep had been sentenced to prison for life for killing Mrs. Pinchot’s favorite cat,” the Suite 101 article says.
The son said his father got “absolutely thousands of letters” about Pep and this sentence, according to papers at Grey Towers National Historic Site, Governor Pinchot’s home in Milford. The made-up account, along with the mugshot, was frequently reprinted in tabloids at the time.
As some have noted, Pep — innocent as he might have been — looks pretty guilty in the mugshot.
But then again, don’t we all?
(Image: Artist rendering of Pep, based on an archival photo / Easternstate.org)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 1st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, black, cat, dog, dogs, eastern state penitentiary, folklore, gifford pinchot, governor, haunted house, inmates, killed, lab, labrador retriever, legend, mascot, media, murder, myth, news, pennsylvania, pep, pets, philadelphia, prisoner, prisons, reporter, sentenced, therapy dogs
Stubbs, the cat who serves as honorary mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, is back home and recovering from injuries inflicted by a town dog.
Stec said Stubbs will be cared for at a house connected to the back of the store for a few days before returning to his regular sleeping spot — in his bed on top of a freezer. There, Stubbs sleeps in a mushing sled piled with furs of fox, caribou, beaver and lynx.
Stubbs was mauled by a loose dog in Talkeetna, 115 miles north of Anchorage, on Aug. 31. The attack left Stubbs with a punctured lung, a fractured sternum, bruised hips and a deep gash on his side.
Stec said she knows the dog that attacked Stubbs, and that she reported the attack to animal control officials.
The community of 900 elected the orange and beige cat mayor in a write-in campaign 15 years ago. There is no human mayor in the town.
Stubbs greets customers at the store, but also ventures over to the tavern next door, where he often is served a water and catnip concoction in a wine glass. The dog attack was not his first scare. He has been shot with a BB gun, fallen into a fryer vat and once rode on a garbage truck before jumping off, the AP reported.
The cat’s popularity has increased since his hospitalization. Two walls of the general store are covered with cards and letters to him, donations toward his medical care have come in from around the country, and get-well messages have been posted on his Facebook page, which has almost 22,000 “likes.”
On Facebook, Stubbs reports : ”While at this point in time it is impossible to know whether my attack was politically motivated, I do hope that the government will seriously consider providing me with some Secret Service protection in the future to assist in preserving my remaining 8 lives. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue leading the great town of Talkeetna onwards to brighter tomorrows.”
(Photo: Stubbs’ Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, animal hospital, bitten, cat, cat mayor, dog, home, honorary, injured, lauriestec, mauled, mayor, nagley's general store, recovering, released, stubbs, stubbs the cat, talkeetna
When dog bites man, the old saying goes, that’s not news.
When dog bites mayor, that’s news.
And when the mayor is a cat, that’s even bigger news, right?
Stubbs, honorary mayor of lovely Talkeetna, Alaska, for the past 15 years, was badly injured over the weekend by one of the small town’s many wandering dogs.
Stubbs is in bad shape, with a punctured lung, a fractured sternum and a 5-inch gash on his side, CNN reports.
Doctors took out a chest tube Tuesday, and Stubbs was breathing on his own for the first time since the attack.
Stubbs was found years ago in a box full of kittens left in front of Nagley’s General Store. The manager of the store, Lauri Stec, decided to keep him, and named him Stubbs because he had no tail.
Soon afterward, he ran as a write-in candidate for the position of mayor. Talkeetna being a historical district, the position is mostly an honorary one .
Even though dogs outnumber the 800 people in Talkeetna, and often can be seen running loose, the town’s canines always seemed to respect Stubbs, locals say.
But on Saturday night Stubbs was walking around town when an unleashed dog ran across the street and bit him.
“Right now is a crucial time cause he’s heavily sedated on pain meds. He’s in a lot of pain,” Stec said.
The dog, described only as a big one, is still at large.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, animals, bites, bitten, candidate, cat, cat mayor, dog, dog bites mayor, honorary, mauled, mayor, news, pets, stubbs, talkeetna, unleashed, write-in
An animal control officer in South Carolina responded to a call about a barking dog behind a Home Depot, and was touched when she discovered what all the noise was about.
“This is one example of why I love my job,” officer Michelle Smith said in her report.
On Monday, a caller to animal control reported a dog had been barking in the area along the creek since Saturday, Fox Carolina reported
Smith followed the noise and found the dog and kitten at the bottom of a steep embankment.
She took them both to Anderson County P.A.W.S.
Smith said the dog is taking care of the kitten, cleaning and feeding it.
Animal control is hoping either the dog’s owner or whoever adopts her will agree to bring the cat home, too.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 16th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: anderson, animal control, animals, barking, cat, creek, dog, dog and cat, dog nurses cat, dogs, embankment, friends, friendship, guarding, kitten, loyalty, michelle smith, nursing, officer, pets, south carolina, stray, unlikely friends, video
The recall includes all dry pet food products with expiration dates prior to and including March 24, 2013. The brands include California Natural, EVO, Healthwise, Innova, and Karma.
Based in Fremont, Neb., Natura Pet is a maker of “natural” and “holistic” pet foods, according to a company statement.
The recall is an expansion of one that had been announced by the company last month, according to a Food and Drug Administration press release.
The affected products were sold through veterinary clinics and select pet specialty retailers throughout the United States and in Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Costa Rica. The products were also sold online.
No canned wet foods or biscuits are included in the recall.
Pets infected with salmonella can appear tired, and have diarrhea and vomiting. Some pets may not show obvious symptoms, but experience decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Pets can spread the bacteria to other animals, including humans.
Natura Pet said people who have purchased the products should discard them. If their pets have consumed the recalled product and are showing symptoms, they should contact their veterinarian.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 25th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advisory, and Karma, animals, bacteria, brands, California Natural, cat, cat food, cats, dog, dog food, dogs, dry, EVO, fda, food and drug administration, health, Healthwise, Innova, natura, natura pet products, pets, recall, safety, salmonella, voluntary, warning
Apparently, there was no need to even question the cat after this yellow lab, in the view of his owner, all but confessed to the crime — getting into the cat treat bag.
For all those who say dogs don’t feel guilt, or something closely akin to it, explain this reaction.
Based on it, Denver, the yellow lab who is the second to be interrogated, is sent to the pen — though I would point out the evidence was entirely circumstantial, there was no DNA testing, he was never read his rights and he received no trial before a jury of his peers.
We hope his sentence was a short one.
And we still think it’s possible the cat did it.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 20th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appearances, cat, cat treats, cats, circumstantial, confession, crime, denver, detective, dogs, evidence, funny, golden retriever, guilt, guilty, investigation, lie to me, macy, pets, remorse, showing, suspects, treats, trouble, truth, video, yellow lab
BARCS said the cat, who they’ve named Marilyn, has a broken back leg and is still being evaluated.
BARCS officials say they have filed a police report about the incident.
The witness to the abuse chased the two boys. Unable to catch them, he returned to the cat and transported her to the shelter, according to a BARCS press release.
“The cat’s leg was very limp, completely broken,” Darlene Harris of BARCS told WBAL-TV.
BARCS said the beating of Marilyn is the second animal abuse case to come to their attention so far this year.
In January, Mittens, who had recently given birth to a litter of kittens, was reportedly doused with lighter fluid while trapped in a milk crate and set on fire by teenagers. Both Mittens and her kittens were taken to BARCS, and the two juveniles were charged with animal cruelty.
Marilyn’s medical bills, like those of Mittens, are being paid for through BARCS’ Franky Fund, a fund that relies on donations from the public to pay the veterinary bills of injured animals that come to the shelter for care.
Donations to the Franky Fund are accepted through the BARCS website at, or in person at the shelter, located at 301 Stockholm Street in South Baltimore (near M&T Bank Stadium).
Posted by John Woestendiek February 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, beaten, bills, broken leg, burned, cat, cruelty to animals, fells point, fire, franky fund, investigation, juveniles, marilyn, medical, mittens, police, sticks, teenagers, torture, treatment, veterinary, youths
Baltimore police said Monday that two 17-year-old boys have been charged with multiple accounts of animal cruelty in connection with using lighter fluid to set a cat named Mittens on fire in Baltimore’s Central Park Heights neighborhood.
The owner of the cat, who lives on the 3300 block of St. Ambrose Ave., told police that the animal had been set on fire by her grandson and a friend.
A witness told police that the suspects brought the cat onto a rear, second-floor deck three weeks ago and and put a milk crate on top of the pet. They then poured lighter fluid through the openings in the crate and dropped a book of lit matches into the crate, police said.
Police said the cat howled, knocked the milk crate over and leapt from the balcony, running in circles until the flames went out.
Mittens recently had three kittens, and continues to nurse them in her new surroundings — at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), where she is expected to survive her injuries.
Mittens’ ears were damaged as a result of the burns. She also sustained third- and fourth-degree burns on her back and side, according to BARCS.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, arrests, baltimore, boys, burned, cat, charges, condition, cruelty to animals, doused, fire, injuries, kittens, lighter fluid, milk crate, mittens, set on fire, teenagers, torture
As the case against two brothers accused of setting a pit bull named Phoenix on fire unfolds in a Baltimore courtroom, a cat named Mittens is nursing both her kittens and the wounds she received after being set on fire in the city.
It may not be raining abused cats and dogs, but this — one case entering the public consciousness before the other has a chance to clear it — is how a reputation gets made. And if Baltimore doesn’t do something — something big, something quick — it stands in danger of becoming known not as the city that reads, or even the city that bleeds, but the city that torches, and tortures, its pets.
Whether it deserves that label more than other cities is arguable. It’s also not the point. The point is the torture of animals is a big flashing neon sign, reading ”Address This Issue.” It’s a highly visible symptom of an illness in society that, even though it has been diagnosed, is largely being ignored.
Baltimore has no monopoly on animal torture — and it’s not the only city that’s failing to fully address it. In cities across the country there are pockets of misguided youths who have either failed to develop any compassion, may never have been taught any, or have had it snuffed out of them.
Attacking the problem is something that should be done not just for reasons of image, but, much more importantly, because it has been well documented that children who take pleasure in torturing pets often grow up to inflict harm on fellow humans. Pick a serial killer and you can, almost always, find animal abuse in his past.
If how a society treats its animals is a barometer of how civilized it is, Baltimore needs a massive injection of civility — stat — some large doses of empathy and compassion, best administered during childhood.
The saddest irony of it all is that animals are one of the best ways to administer that, to teach children a respect for all living things. Instead, dogs and cats, who we have so much to learn from about life, love and happiness, time and again in Baltimore are serving as the victims for those seeking sick thrills or acting out their inner hostilities.
Mittens, according to officials at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), was placed into a milk crate by a juvenile who doused both the cat and the crate with lighter fluid, struck a match and threw it into the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned to the kittens she had recently given birth to at a home on Saint Ambrose Street. (St. Ambrose, for some more irony, is considered the patron saint of domestic animals.)
That incident came to light after the first day of testimony in the trial against teenage brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of dousing Phoenix, a pit bull, with accelerant and setting her on fire on May 27, 2009.
On Friday, Baltimore city police detective Syreeta Teel tearfully described finding the pit bull on fire on a West Baltimore street and running from her squad car to smother the flames with a sweater.
Despite her quick and heartfelt response, one thing that’s becoming evident during the trial is that the police department doesn’t take torturing and killing animals as seriously as some other crimes.
Teel, according to testimony, left the sweater, which might have provided traces of accelerant, on the sidewalk. The scene was never secured, and the police crime lab was never called. “The Baltimore City Police Department completely botched this,” said Assistant Public Defender Karyn Meriwether, who represents one of the brothers.
The death of Phoenix drew national attention, leading to thousands of dollars in donations to a reward fund and the creation of a city-wide Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, which issued a report last year that found numerous flaws in the city’s response — particularly that of law enforcement — to incidents of animal abuse.
According to a Baltimore Sun report, the prosecution’s evidence is limited in the Phoenix case, and relies largely on unclear surveillance video and the word of witnesses — including a woman who the defense says came forward once the reward topped $25,000.
Phoenix was burned over more than 95 percent of her body. Veterinarians would later find that her corneas had melted, and the inside of her mouth was scorched. She’d lost her footpads to the flames, but she kept fighting until, with her kidneys failing, she was put to sleep five days later.
“On a scale of one to 10,” her pain level was “10,” said a Pennsylvania veterinarian who treated her. Phoenix also had puncture wounds on her neck and leg, indicating she might have been in dog fights, but throughout her treatment she showed no aggression.
The Johnson brothers both were initially charged in juvenile court, but were later indicted as adults on the animal cruelty charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. Testimony is expected to continue this morning.
Animal advocates in Baltimore are watching the case closely, and hoping that, if found guilty, the twins receive the most severe punishment posible.
But as the weekend’s developments show, as Mittens reminds us, a strict sentence is not the entire solution. It’s reactive, and while it may send a needed message, the city needs to do more, in a proactive way. Investigating, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning animal abusers all need to be done, and done properly, and taken seriously, but what’s even more vital is preventing it from happening in the first place.
Our favorite reader comment: ”Kindness and concern for animals is going to have to be taught in elementary school. It’s the only way to stop this problem in its tracks.”
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Posted by John Woestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abusers, animal, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, cat, cats, children, compassion, cruelty to animals, dogs, fire, image, juveniles, law enforcement, mittens, pets, phoenix, pit bull, prevention, prosecution, punishment, set on fire, task force, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, youth