Pep: Therapy Dog Falsely Accused of Murder
Pep spent most of his life at the Eastern State Penitentiary. He became famous in history as an accused cat killer but in reality was sent to the prison to boost morale among the inmates.
Pep was a gift to Gifford Pinchot, the Governor of Pennsylvania, during his first term in 1923. He was a much-loved pet but had a bad habit of chewing on the cushions of the front porch sofa. The Governor felt it was best the dog lived somewhere else and decided to send him to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Maine. He heard about dogs being used as therapy to help rehabilitate inmates and, being good friends with the warden, felt Pep would be an excellent candidate. Pep entered the prison in August 1924.
Jokingly, the guards paw printed Pep and even took a mugshot of him with an inmate number, which is skipped in prison intake logs and inmate records. Word got around and his story was published in newspapers saying the Governor used his executive powers to sentence his dog to life in prison without parole for killing his wife's cat. According to Dick Fulmer, who worked at Eastern State in the '60s and has spent years researching the facility's history, stories of the false accusation were written all because of politics. In 1926, Cornelia Bryce-Pinchot, the Governor's wife, issued a statement to the New York Times clearing Pep's name.
Pep lived at Eastern State Penitentiary until he was transferred to Graterford Prison in 1929 where he died of natural causes and was buried on the prison grounds. Pep was never locked in a cell. He wandered around the prison halls freely and became a favorite among the inmates and guards.
Eastern State Penitentiary, which once housed Al Capone, closed in 1971 and is now a museum where the story of Pep is told today - to add a little humor in a place with a long, dark history.