Castor Gardens block gripped by fear over killer pit bulls

Pit bulls belonging to a house on Saul Street have killed multiple dogs, and some residents are scared they may turn on neighbors.

Sharon Sterling holds a photograph of her dog Daisy, who was killed by a pit bull Feb. 22. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

It happened so fast.

Sharon Sterling was out in her back driveway with her dog, an 8-pound Pomeranian named Daisy, when a pit bull ran out of a nearby yard and grabbed Daisy by the neck.

“Blood splashed all over my arm, and the dog was dead within three seconds,” Sterling said. “He had a grip on her that was unreal. The dog was trained to kill.”

Surveillance video shared with the Northeast Times from Saturday, Feb. 22, shows the pit bull sprinting out of the open gate of a nearby house and making a beeline for Sterling and her dog. She yells and a kid standing nearby begins hitting the dog before it runs off with Daisy in its mouth.

Sterling, who lives on the 7200 block of Eastwood Street, just off Cottman Avenue in Castor Gardens, said pit bulls belonging to a Saul Street house have killed three neighborhood dogs and one cat.

There have been other close calls, and the dogs have run up to people and grabbed their pant legs, she said. Sterling said residents of Eastwood and Saul streets are scared to use their shared driveway. 

“People are petrified,” she said. “They’re afraid to go out of their house in the back.”

A pit bull loose in the driveway stares down Daisy, who was later killed by a different pit bull. SOURCE: SHARON STERLING

Sterling suspects the pit bull’s owners are training dogs to fight. Since August, when the current tenants moved in, 15 to 20 pit bulls have been spotted at the house, usually staying for only a couple of weeks, she said.

Officers responded to two dog attacks on the 7200 block of Saul Street in February, a police department spokesman said. In both cases, a pit bull killed a smaller dog, and the city’s Department of Public Health and ACCT Philly were notified, police said.

The owner of the pit bull that killed Daisy is 36-year-old Jaritza Rodriguez, according to a police report provided by Sterling. A man who answered the door at Rodriguez’s house, 7228 Saul St., last week declined to comment.

Sterling said they keep the pit bulls on their deck, but it’s often not secured and the gate is sometimes left open. Her next-door neighbor, Mary Stanku, said the dogs are always roaming the driveway.

“Their dogs are always constantly getting out,” said Stanku, who has lived on Eastwood Street for 18 years. “They don’t secure their fence.”

Sterling fears the dogs will soon turn to humans. She has two artificial knees and can’t run, so she bought a stun gun in case she gets attacked. On Thursday, Sterling frantically called police after spotting a pit bull in the driveway as kids were walking home from school.

She’s an animal lover and has, along with other neighbors, built makeshift shelters for feral cats on the block. Sterling fears she may come home one day to see that the felines have been ripped up.

In addition to police, she said she has contacted Councilman Bobby Henon’s office and ACCT about the situation. She also wants the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to investigate the treatment of the dogs.

“There’s no bad dogs. There’s bad owners,” Sterling said. “These people need to be responsible for their dogs.”

She said the pit bull’s owner offered money to avoid going to court, but Sterling declined. A hearing is scheduled for March 20. 

Sterling’s 13-year-old granddaughter, who lives with her, loved Daisy and built a memorial out of the fluffy dog’s toys. Both were used to the Pomeranian greeting them at the door. 

“Every time I come in this house, it’s empty,” Sterling said. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.