THE PEOPLE IN a quiet pocket of West Mount Airy are living in fear.
In too many neighborhoods, people fear catching a stray bullet on the street, but on West Sedgwick Street, the fear is two pit bulls.
For at least the last three years, neighbors say, they have been terrorized by two red-nose pit bulls, living in a house at 107 W. Sedgwick, who run loose. Ada Brooks, who cares for the dogs, says 85-pound Micah and Zion don't run loose. The breed has a reputation for protectiveness and aggressiveness, according to the American Bully website, unless properly socialized.
Brooks' dogs were not, neighbors say. A dozen of them attended a Municipal Court hearing Wednesday at the Criminal Justice Center. to which Brooks was summoned by the District Attorney's Office.
Getting to that point took three years, frustrated neighbors told me. Three of them testified.
The first attack to be recounted happened in November 2013, when Dr. Michelle Nashleanas was walking Patty, her 38-pound cattle dog/pit bull mix. Micah and Zion were not on leashes, and Zion tore into Patty. Before Nashleanas could pull her dog to safety, Patty suffered six puncture wounds and the loss of three toenails. Nashleanas says that a year earlier, a dog belonging to neighbors who have since moved was mauled by Brooks' dogs.
In March 2015, Barbara Patrizzi was walking Jack, her 35-pound Australian cattle dog mix, when Zion and Micah ran from Brooks' home and attacked her dog, causing wounds to Jack's legs and groin. As Patrizzi pulled the bigger dogs off Jack, she was bitten, with one bite going through her hand.
Her doctor and vet bills were almost $1,000.
This February, Pashi Mida, new to the neighborhood, noticed dog poop in her yard and saw Phil Brooks, Ada Brooks' adult son, outside with the two dogs.
Mida told me that she planned to introduce herself and ask that the dogs be kept off her property. Before she could say a word, she was rushed by the dogs, with Zion biting her above the knee and Micah tearing into her calf, drawing blood.
Democratic committeemen Michael Kleiner and Maurice Sampson tell me that despite reports to the 14th District and calls to Councilwoman Cindy Bass' office, nothing changed until a recent community Town Watch meet-and-greet with new Police Commissioner Richard Ross. West Mount Airy neighbors complained about being terrorized and Ross agreed that something had to be done.
Next thing you know, a court hearing was scheduled.
After speaking to the witnesses before the hearing, I was introduced to Ada Brooks by Sampson, who has remained on good terms with her. She was standing on the edge of a forest of her neighbors, who were talking to each other in the subterranean corridor, but not to her.
Slim and stylishly dressed, Brooks said she feels ostracized by her neighbors and put most of the blame on her son, Phil, who no longer lives with her.
"This is more than the dogs," she said. "There's a persecution."
She repeatedly called her son "irresponsible," said he didn't inform her of the dogs' biting anyone, and, despite what her neighbors say, claimed to always leash her dogs.
Except for the time they attacked Patrizzi and Jack.
The law says dogs must be leashed in public areas, but as is true with many "minor" infractions in Philadelphia, there's little enforcement.
Brooks admits that Zion can be "aggressive," but says that hers "are not vicious dogs. They have never been in fights." Except for the times they attacked other pets.
We then were called into the courtroom of Judge Joffe C. Pittman III, who had a brief sidebar with Brooks, representing herself, and Barbara Paul, representing the commonwealth. Paul is an animal lover who often handles cruelty cases.
Three victims testified. Brooks' defense was mostly to blame her son. She was present for only one of the attacks, for which she says she apologized and promised restitution, but had not paid as of this writing.
Brooks was found guilty of harboring dangerous dogs, fined $500, and ordered to pay restitution to victims and to have her dogs registered as "dangerous," which means that she needs $50,000 in insurance, and that they must be kept securely on her property and be leashed and muzzled when they leave it.
Paul was "extremely satisfied."
The neighbors, happy with the end of three years of civic inertia, had doubts that Brooks would comply fully with the order. Until Brooks proves she will, they fear running into Zion or Micah in the street.
Brooks can be jailed or lose the dogs if she fails to comply.
After the verdict, Brooks told me she can understand her neighbors' fears, but "at this point, I ought to be keeping my mouth closed."
More important, muzzle the dogs.
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