Eastern State Penitentiary tells jailed cat-murdering dog’s story

Eastern State Penitentiary tells the legend of Pep, the "cat-murdering dog," at weekend event. Credit Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary tells the legend of Pep, the “cat-murdering dog,” at weekend event. Credit Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State’s most famous inmate may not be gangster Al Capone. And it may not be human.

Pep, “the Cat-Murdering Dog,” was was processed on Aug. 12, 1924. Legend contends then- Pennsylvania Gov. Gifford Pinchot sentenced the black Labrador retriever to life in prison without parole after it killed his wife’s cherished cat.

Pep was paw-printed and given an inmate number, C-2559, which is skipped in prison intake logs and records.

Lauren Zalut, tour specialist, explained that through correspondence between Pinchot and Warden John Groom historians believe Pep did not live in a cell.

“The governor says Pep can be kept in the deputy warden’s quarters, and he would have a yard and get plenty of exercise,” she said.

Two years after his incarceration, in 1926, Cornelia Bryce-Pinchot issued a statement to the New York Times clearing Pep’s name.

Whether he was guilty or framed, Pep acted as a mascot for the prisoners to help boost morale. According to sources, Pep lived among the inmates at Eastern State for about a decade until he was transferred to Graterford Prison after it’s completion in 1929. “And we think this is where he may have died,” Zalut said.


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