In 1924, a black Irish setter received a life sentence at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. He was a dog called Pep.Pep was arrested in his home for the murder of the cat belonging to the wife of governor Griffin Pinchot. Did playtime get too rough? Or was it viciously premeditated? It didn’t matter to the wife of the governor, she was deadset on taking Pep down.  

Picture of the killer dog surrounded by two guards at the penitentiary. Credit: npr.org
Later, Pep was vindicated of the awful crime by the governor’s wife. Credit: honesttopaws.com

The dog was framed. The account of him killing the cat was entirely fictitious, made up by a newspaper reporter. His actual offence was ‘chewing the cushions of the sofa’ on the governor’s front porch. Governor Pinochet had seen dogs in Maine being used as therapy to help inmates rehabilitate, thinking Pep would suit the role, the governor and his wife sent Pep to the penitentiary. Governor Pinchot’s son would later recall how his father was inundated with ‘absolutely thousands of letters’ about Pep and his prison sentence.

ImageEastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia. By David Mark from Pixabay

Pep enjoyed prison and his responsibility as rehabilitation dog, everyone liked Pep.

And his legacy in many prisons around the world is a testimony his good nature. There are now many prison animal programs in place. The programs help inmates learn compassion, new skills, and to relax in a calm environment with cute animals.

According to a literature review from the Massachusetts Department of Correction, “anecdotal reports from staff, inmates, and recipients of the service dogs are overwhelmingly positive.”

It’s possible that Pep inspired a lot of positive change in the U.S. prison system.

By Gray L.