PENNSYLVANIA -- Around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jane Winters walked a pair of dachshunds named Lil Bit and Beans along Point Breeze Avenue near Wharton Street, not knowing they would soon be fighting for their safety and the pooches’ lives.
As Winters recalled details in her dining room on Thursday morning, the group noticed a pit bull peering out the window of a hardware store, but they kept walking. They wouldn’t even reach the corner before the dog burst through the door and attacked.
“It went right for Lil Bit,” she said of her six-year-old best friend who would suffer injuries to his leg and chest along with a potentially punctured lung. “I was screaming for help, for someone to call 911, banging on the window saying ‘You need to come out here right now,’ but nobody was helping us.”
They struggled to push the pit bull back into the store, according to Winters. That solution wouldn't last, though. She said the dog quickly pushed through the door again and attacked Beans, who suffered chest and throat injuries.
“Beans was in its mouth. He was swinging Beans around in the air,” said Winters, who hurt her knee trying to pry the dogs apart and suffered a bite on her right hand, leaving her with butterfly stitches atop a painful wound. “His extra padding saved his life.
“It felt like it went on forever. There was blood everywhere. I was shaking, covered with my blood, the dogs’ blood," she said. "It’s like I’m a casualty of war, but a war that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
Thanks to a call made to police by a witness from a nearby barber shop, an estimated dozen officers from the 17th District and an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter.
Winters doesn’t have health insurance, so she went to an urgent-care center instead of the hospital, which medics suggested after wrapping her hand up.
She only did so after the dogs were taken to veterinary hospitals where Beans – who she was watching for friends vacationing in Turks and Caicos – underwent surgery to place a port in his neck and Lil Bit’s wounds were let open to drain.
So far, the bills total $900 for Beans, $500 for Lil Bit and $400 for Winters. There are more visits and bills to come.
“That’s my best friend," Winters said of Lil Bit, who was sitting on a nearby couch while she recounted the incident. "Of course I’m going to go up and try to save him. He couldn’t even get out of the car when we got there. We were just walking down the street. We didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
While the attack was jarring enough, Winters also has major problems with how city officials handle such cases, having seen it up close and personally.
She said she’s had police officers tell her that these investigations are handled by the Animal Care & Control Team of Philadelphia, but it is ACCT's understanding that police have jurisdiction.
The confusion is particularly troubling because she direly needs to determine whether the pit bull is up-to-date on immunizations.
If it isn’t, she’ll have to undergo rabies treatments that could get quite expensive for someone who’s uninsured.
“It’s just ridiculous. We live in the fifth-largest city in the country, and nobody knows how to handle these investigations? It just seems like nobody knows what’s going on,” she said, noting she was told it would take up to six weeks to get the incident report from police. “How is it that somebody’s who’s bit by a dog – the victim – isn’t allowed to know anything?”
She requested a police escort to return to the hardware store to get information about the dog and its owner, but that didn’t happen.
“I’m a tiny little white girl who was up against a pit bull. I’m scared to go back there,” she said. “The officer answering the phone just laughed. ‘Do what? So we can get injured in a dog attack, too?’
“They said the only way we can do that is if you call 911, just wait on the corner (for an officer) and use common sense. Wait on the corner where we got attacked? No one’s helping me and people are scared to help. It’s ridiculous.”
Winters said a helpful ACCT supervisor told her the dog’s owner – a man believed to be named Rodney – refused to turn the pit bull over for a 10-day quarantine.
In lieu of that, dogs involved in attacks should be quarantined at home, but witnesses have told Winters that the dog’s been outside on numerous occasions since the attack. People at the scene have told her that this was not the first incident involving the pit bull, she said.
“It seems like no city agency can force [the pit bull's owner] to do anything to help me,” Winters said.
“No one is coming forth with any information,” added Andre Quain, who was with the trio at the time of the attack. “So many people responded to the scene, but no one wanted to be helpful.”
Asked about the incident, a man who answered the locked door at the hardware store – there is no name on any obvious signage outside – said he "didn't know anything about that."
When contacted for comment on Thursday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Police Department said animal-control officers are tasked with deciding whether dogs should be quarantined after an incident.
She also noted that either the captain or an administrative officer from the 17th District would be calling Winters to see what help they can offer.
The uncertainty has left Winters wondering whether she’ll have to get a series of four injections as part of a 14-day rabies treatment. Not knowing whether it’s even necessary makes that possibility all the more stressful.
“I can figure it out if someone will just f***ing help me,” she said, noting that she doesn’t want this to turn into another news story that bashes the pit bull breed based on stereotypes rather than facts.
“I don’t think it has to do with the dog. I’ve heard it was a rescue that was probably mistreated and malnourished in the past. It’s people’s fault. Stop mistreating animals,” she said. “The dog doesn’t have to die. I’d feel bad about that. The system is just set up to fail everybody.”
(Philly Voice - March 2, 2017)