Series following the people fighting to protect Britain's wildlife and pets. RSPCA Inspector Chris Shaw makes a grisly discovery in a house of horrors.
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All too often, our wildlife and domestic pets are the victims
of cruelty, persecution and neglect.
Animal 24/7 is with the people fighting to save them.
sinister findings in a house of horrors.
Ah, Carrie, there's a dead cat stuck to the back of the wardrobe.
The mystery surrounding a stolen Staffy.
What are you doing in the cupboard?
That's not very friendly, is it?
And a frightened badger, trapped in a backyard.
Quite a built-up place for a badger to be, isn't it? He's curled in there with his head underneath.
In here, we find...Apricot,
just one of 500 or so cats that come in to this RSPCA cattery every year.
When she was picked up, she was pretty thin,
short of water and had been living alone for quite a few days.
As you can see, she's still pretty skinny today.
That call-out was fairly routine for inspectors,
but sometimes the RSPCA are faced with cases that are much more shocking.
This house is home to over a dozen cats and their owner.
She's ignored warnings to improve the way she keeps her pets.
Now the police and RSPCA inspector Chris Shaw have arrived to rescue them.
The owner's not home, but they're determined to get inside.
The door may be open but Chris hits an invisible barrier.
Do you want a mask?
-I think so. Have you got a mask?
The stench is overpowering.
It's hard to know where to start, but time is of the essence.
All the cats must be found and removed before the team are overcome by ammonia fumes.
-Oh, my eyes are streaming.
-Cat boxes quick, please.
Vet Dennis Jones is keen to ensure that none of the cats escape.
Mr Jones, there's one making a break for the door.
-It's making a break for it!
-It's all right.
It's gone in the other room.
I think there's going to be about 20 cats in there to collect...approximately.
I really can't quite say, though.
There's another one here, actually.
Hello, little mate.
Things are going well, but the conditions are getting more difficult.
Are your eyes OK?
-Yeah. Mine are stinging.
I'm going to throw up.
Making me feel pretty sick at the moment.
Inspector Gary Eastwood arrives to help with the rescue.
It's the worst I've seen. Out of 24 years, it's absolutely...
-More baskets, please!
Look at that room. It just says it all, doesn't it, really?
There's no water coming in from the outside.
That is just either urine or poo.
I mean, it's worrying how someone can let their life and their house become like this.
I spoke to the lady.
Her excuse was she's very busy.
But there's busy and there's, you know...
That's not an acceptable excuse, as far as I'm concerned.
The thing is, she chooses to live here and the cats don't.
She forces them to live here.
Chris suspects the cats may be hiding beneath the large wardrobe.
-They tilt it forward and his hunch is spot on.
-Are the cats under there?
But then he makes a shocking discovery.
Carrie, there's a dead cat stuck to the back of the wardrobe.
Oh, that's fallen down there, hasn't it?
Now, as well as saving the living, Chris needs to gather evidence on the dead.
This is just...
And downstairs, there's more horror.
Another one. Gary!
-How dead are we talking?
The poor thing's got its foot up in its mouth.
Oh, there's loads in here, Gary.
-What, dead ones?
Oh, crikey, the smell is absolutely horrific. It's just overpowering...
of ammonia, faeces, bodies. It's just disgusting.
What's even more upsetting are the scratch marks on the door.
This could be evidence of a story almost too appalling to contemplate.
Must have gone through a lot when he was trying to get out, then.
The remains of dead cats litter the room.
-They've clearly been here for some time.
-A skull here.
The two front legs here. There's the pelvis and the backbone there.
And the remains of the cat's fur overlaying the body.
You're more than likely dealing with just straightforward starvation here.
In total, the team recover the remains of 12 dead cats.
Just shocking. Absolutely shocking.
The search is finally over, but it's not the end of the day.
Chris' attention must now turn back to the health of the rescued animals.
We need to get these cats to a vet's as soon as possible.
Get them all examined. Make sure they are going to survive.
They probably need some antibiotics. There was a lot of cats with runny noses and eyes.
The sooner we can get them examined, the better, so I want to get over to the vet's.
This one does not look so good.
Yeah. It's a good job we did get in and get those ones out.
But still, still I wish I'd have got there sooner.
Every year, around 100,000 pets are reported lost or stolen,
and as you can see, a fair few pass through here, at Stapeley Grange Cattery.
It's a time of real heartbreak for their owners,
but if their pet is microchipped, there's much more hope.
In the East End of London, the Met have been called to a block of flats
where a Staffordshire bull terrier is locked in a utility cupboard.
Now RSPCA inspector Dawn Avery has also arrived.
We had a report of a dog locked in the cupboard overnight.
The neighbours have finally had enough of the barking.
It seems that the dog's owned by a bunch of kids whose parents won't let them have a dog,
so they've found another way in.
The dog has been growling, but it's unclear whether
this is because it's aggressive or purely because it's frightened.
DOG GROWLS Hello. Hello.
What you doing in the cupboard, then? That's not very friendly, is it?
Not very friendly at all, is it?
Are you hungry? Are you going to bite us?
Shall I go and get a biscuit, see if we can make friends? What I'm going to do...
I'll go and get a little bit of food, cos if she's anything like me, it'll bring her round.
I'll get one of my poles. I'll go and get that out the van.
Dawn hopes her catching pole and treats will do the trick.
Experience tells her this Staffy could have been stolen, possibly for breeding.
If she is a female and if she is pregnant,
cos I haven't had a decent enough look at her yet, it'll be a money-making venture.
And it just gets quite depressing cos we see this quite a lot.
Most dogs would growl in that situation, but you never know
with these dogs and they're quite lethal if they're aggressive.
I don't want its jaws around me.
So I'm going to have a little go with food but if that fails
I'll wait for the dog unit and they can help me.
Dawn returns to the dog, hoping that she can get it away from the scene without it becoming aggressive.
And that's not all there is to worry about.
Were the youths hanging about when you were here earlier?
They denied all knowledge when we turned up.
Right. Look. Bless her. There's no natural light in here at all.
What have you got in there?
She's got bedding. She's got a toy.
She's got water.
She's got a light bulb to play with as well.
Not sure I'd want her to crunch on that. It's totally an unsuitable place to keep a dog.
Are you going to like me, eh?
You going to bite that?
Dawn manoeuvres her pole into the cupboard and onto the dog.
The reason we use this rather than putting a lead on
is at the moment, we don't know what her temperament's like.
Fortunately, the dog accepts the restraint without any fuss.
There's a good girl. See, you're out your cupboard now.
Who's a good girl?
You're not so bad, are you? Eh?
Oh, you're wagging your tail!
Who's a good girl?
What would be a good idea as well would be to scan her for a microchip, wouldn't it, basically?
With the scanner, Dawn can check within minutes whether the dog has an embedded microchip.
If it has, tracking the owner down becomes a lot easier.
Now, come on. What I'm doing now is I'm just scanning her to see if she's got...
Oh, she has, she's chipped.
That means Dawn could be just hours away from reuniting this frightened dog with her owner.
She's still going to go up to the police station.
Good girl. Up.
Oh, look at that. Good girl!
I'm going to make enquiries as to who the chip's registered to.
Could be a lost dog, stolen dog, anything really.
-And we'll find out.
-Because of suspicions the dog has been stolen,
she will stay with the police until her true home is found.
Meanwhile, Dawn puts in a call to Petlog, who hold the details of all chipped animals.
Good morning. My name's Dawn Avery.
I'm an RSPCA inspector from London.
We've picked up a dog in, would you believe, a cupboard, a communal cupboard. Yep.
Out of interest, has this dog been reported as missing or stolen?
Has it? And that was a while back, though, was it? All right.
Lovely. OK. Thank you for that. What I'll do then is I'll make contact with the owner. Thank you.
All right, then. Bye-bye.
Right. She's only about two years old.
The person that is her registered owner actually lives in this area.
This is where the good old A to Z is still better than sat navs, I'd say.
-Dawn now knows the dog is called Blaze.
She also has an address for her owner,
but how will they react to the news that their pet has been found?
-I've picked up a dog that's microchipped.
-Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
-Are you OK, are you?
As we saw with Dawn Avery there, approaching any animal that needs rescuing can be a risky business.
And although Megan here is a bit of a softie, a cat too can deliver a nasty bite if they're scared.
So think how bad it can be if you're trying to pick up a wild animal.
This is the popular Somerset holiday resort of Weston-super-Mare.
While day-trippers enjoy the late afternoon sun,
animal rescuer Pauline Kidner is responding to an emergency call.
You wouldn't normally associate badgers with the seaside,
but this one's said to be trapped just yards from the beach.
-Where's the place, Pauline?
If we just have a look and see what the situation is.
-I'll let you go first. You're the experienced one with badgers.
'Instead of its set, this badger's night on the town unexpectedly ended at the back of this terraced house.'
-It's quite a built-up place for a badger to be.
It's over there in the corner.
He's curled in there with his head underneath.
It's right in the middle of town here.
It's the towns that have moved into their territories
and they've just got to find a way of surviving.
Last night's encounter left both human and animal shaken.
As the frightened intruder tried to break out of the yard,
homeowner Steve Varney thought something far nastier was trying to break into his house.
We heard quite a racket about 4.30am this morning
and at first, I thought it was someone trying to get in.
And I kind of turned the light on and I just see this little pair of eyes
peering at me and it was going round sticking its bum in the air and marking its territory.
And of course, I got a bit concerned because it was just scratching away.
-Did you know you had badgers round here?
-Didn't have a clue.
Not something I would kind of
picture in my back garden, for sure.
Possibly injured from the fall into the yard and obviously scared, we now need to capture the badger.
Blanket. Cage. Grasper.
That's it, hopefully.
Should do the job. At the moment, he's sat quietly, but obviously,
once we start manoeuvring round, he might suddenly come to life.
Because badgers can be quite tough characters.
They've got a very strong bite, but they are actually shy, so we're going to give him the option
to run into the cage, if he wants to. If I just put something in the bottom of it like that.
If I can just quietly go in there and put it down first of all.
With walls on all sides, it's easy to see how this yard became a prison.
OK. You've got the top end of the cage, we need.
And basically, we just have it at the top there...
-ready to feed him.
-Trying to usher him in.
That's what we're going to try and do is get him to go in.
-I'll have this ready to slam on top.
-Right. There we go.
Let's just have a look at him and see how he is.
I think it's just one that's fallen off the wall.
He looks in pretty good nick, so we can have a look at him this afternoon
and let him have a hotel night's stay with some free food and probably let him go tomorrow.
Will you let him go somewhere near here, cos they're quite territorial?
They're very territorial and this is a typical situation where people say it's in the middle of the town
and there's a much nicer place where the woods are a little bit further away and we put him there.
So, ready to go?
Yeah. Cover him over.
And in to the van.
It's not yet clear if the badger's been injured.
We take him back to Secret World's casualty room,
where Pauline and veterinary nurse Lisa Hills anaesthetise him so they can check him over more closely.
So the muzzle's just going on for security in case he wakes up, is it?
That's right. Yeah. I mean, you need to be sensible with badgers
because we're doing something that's alien to him so if he was to come round, he'd be very frightened.
It's just a bit unfortunate that you landed in that garden.
The check-up's all clear, although his feet reveal more clues about his lifestyle.
That's really interesting, cos look how short his claws are.
So he's obviously walking around where there's a lot of cement, cos he's an urban badger.
When this badger returns to his set, he'll have a permanent reminder of his seaside jaunt.
Every adult badger treated at Secret World gets its own unique piece of body art.
By tattooing him, it means we'll always know if he turns up again
that he's one that's already been in rehabilitation,
or if somebody finds him in a few years' time,
we'll know how long he went on to survive once we let him go.
'And it's not going to be long before badger 0608W
'notices his new markings.' Here we go. Pop him back.
He's just getting a wee bit lively.
Down on the blanket?
Just rest his head up onto the side, onto the back. That's it.
Then slip the muzzle off.
And after a brief spell in the centre's recovery room, he's back on his feet.
As you can see, he's coming round now, although looking a bit shaky.
He'll be in here for another day and hopefully let out tomorrow night
and there's no reason why he won't thrive and survive in that urban environment.
And thank goodness Pauline got to him and in effect rescued him from that little dungeon for a badger.
And that's really what the work here at Secret World is all about.
Rescuing animals and getting them back out into an environment where they can thrive once again.
Later, a new life for the cats who almost starved to death.
Thank you for giving them the home they deserve.
Chris, thank you for getting them out.
In the last year alone, microchipping helped reunite 29 cats with their owners here.
In London, Inspector Dawn Avery has rescued a Staffy called Blaze
from a block of flats and the good news is, it's chipped.
The information held on the microchip database has led Dawn to this house,
but she's no idea whether Blaze's owner still lives here, although the initial signs are encouraging.
Yeah. Interestingly, a picture of a Staff in the window and a Blue Cross sticker in the window.
Oh, hello there. Sorry.
I'm from the RSPCA. Are you Miss Verdy?
I'm sorry about that.
I'm only just making it quick, but I picked up a dog that was microchipped to you.
I just wondered if you've given a dog away in the past.
-You picked up a dog that's microchipped?
Is it all right if we come in and have a chat?
-Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
-Are you OK, are you?
The owner's overwhelmed by the mere mention of her precious companion,
who's been missing for two months.
Please. She's my pride and joy.
My blood pressure's going to go up.
I was three weeks in hospital. I got home yesterday. That dog was my...
All right. All right. Listen. Listen. Take a deep breath.
Take a deep breath. Listen. I've got some good news.
The police called me this morning
and said that they had found a dog and you know in those like communal cupboards by flats
where you have like an electric meter and stuff?
She was in there, but she had water and she had bedding.
We've taken her out and she's gone to the police station and I scanned her.
And that's where microchipping is absolutely perfect,
because had she not had a microchip, I'd never have reunited her with you.
When she went missing, was it because she ran up the road or did somebody take her from your garden?
I think she was taken to order, I really do.
The police asked me this, because she's such a beautiful dog,
did I know anybody who might take her? I said I have always thought it's a local.
Miss Verdy has been lost without Blaze.
It's obvious life just hasn't been the same without her.
When I first started to get poorly, she would lie in my bed as gentle
as a lamb and lick away my tears and would just put her head on my broken shoulder and just never jump on it.
Now Dawn is making plans to bring her home.
You ask what it's like to get my dog back. My Blaze.
I can't tell you...
cos I don't know except...
..happiness is the only word.
Oh, do I love her? Simple as that.
Dawn sets off to collect
this most wanted pet from her temporary home in the police cells.
She was absolutely ecstatic because she said the dog was stolen in January.
PC Lowry, who found Blaze, has been looking after her since she was rescued.
-Blaze, come here. Come here, Blaze.
-She's scared, though, isn't she?
I've got a biscuit in my pocket.
Good girl. A really different dog from this morning.
That was fear aggression, because she was scared, in that cupboard.
Do you want that? No. You say that's boring now.
My concern, obviously, is certainly in East London and probably
in most cities in the country, that it's becoming really fashionable
for gangs of youths to have this type of dog as a status symbol. Would you sort of agree with that?
I would agree, and I think that's, in this case, what's actually happened... I think, you know.
And unfortunately, they're used for fighting and for robberies, etc.
I think it's something we're very keen to try and stamp out.
You ready to go back in my van, then?
So, Blaze arrives home after being missing for two months.
You're home! You're home!
-Come on, then.
-And it doesn't take her long to get her bearings.
Right. See what her reaction is.
Come on, then. Do you recognise it?
Do you recognise it?
This way. Good girl.
She's pulling to the door, which is a good sign.
Are we home? Are we home?
She's quite excited, which is lovely.
You're excited to be home!
Mrs Verdy, we're coming in. All right?
She's getting quite excited. Come on, Blaze.
Have you got your shoulder protected?
I'll hold on to her for a minute.
Come on, this way. This way.
-It's like Miss Verdy and Blaze have never been parted.
-Is that your mum?
-She's like this 24 hours a day!
I think she's quite happy to be back with you, though, don't you?
I've got my baby back. That's how I feel.
I just feel tremendous, tremendous happiness.
And Blaze quickly settles in to her favourite spot.
-Now, if you ever doubted who she belongs to...
This is Blaze's way of saying "I'm home".
Well, what a great ending for Blaze and Mrs Verdy.
But now, we're back to Nottingham and Chris Shaw,
where earlier in the programme,
we saw him pick up 12 dead cats and rescue 15 others from the same fate.
Now, he's arrived at the vet's.
With so many cats to check over, it's a major operation to transport,
examine, feed, water and house them all.
Ah, look at the kittens. Look at their eyes.
They were ones we got first.
Look at the state that was... Poor things.
The cats all have different health issues, so care is taken to identify and take notes about each one.
What is this? A female, by the looks of it.
Even working quickly, it's a long afternoon for Chris, Dennis and the team.
Hello, little one.
I am worried about them, because I can hear that they're sneezing,
so I think there's a few runny noses around...and discharged eyes.
This one looks as though it's had a discharge.
There we are - you can see runny eyes there.
Good tear stains and the nostrils are actually blocked.
Can't see any fleas there. I'm just giving him some antibiotics, just to start some treatment for that.
We'll keep that one in overnight.
It's the teeth here.
If you look at the base here, the gum is eroded,
these cheek teeth are absolutely filthy and disgusting.
Most cats have ailments that are treatable,
but some are in a much worse state.
-This one does not look so good.
This one does not look at all good. His skin is taut.
-He looks possibly dehydrated.
-Very snuffly, isn't he?
-He's not very good.
It's a good job we did get in and get those ones out, but still...
still I wished I'd have got there sooner.
But you can only do the best you can do, can't you?
Nine months later - out of the 16 cats rescued, 15 survived, and they've all found new homes.
Now Chris is on his way to meet Sandy Hawkins, who adopted two of them.
Are you there? You all right?
-Hi, Chris. How are you?
-I'm all right.
-Good. Nice to see you.
-Well, let's go and see the cats.
-Here we are, Chris.
There's our pussy cats.
So, they're in here, are they?
-Wow! Wow! What a difference.
Got a little bit bigger.
They have. And which one's which, then?
-And big girl, Biscuit.
And they obviously get on quite well, then.
Tremendously. There's one for you.
-Come on, then.
-And she'll do this all day.
Seriously? Go and play fetch, kind of thing?
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Although the cats have changed beyond all recognition,
they still live with reminders of their former life.
You can hear this one breathing, can't you, quite a bit?
Has she had any problems with her respiratory tracts?
-She has. They think because she was ill so young,
that it's just sort of a little bit of damage she's got.
Sandy has given Honey and Biscuit a totally fresh start.
To help understand her cats better, she's keen to know just how appalling their lives used to be,
and Chris has brought her some photos, taken by the RSPCA during the rescue.
They are quite horrific pictures, so have you got a strong stomach?
-That's the downstairs hallway.
-That's the carcass, isn't it?
Distressing, isn't it, really?
I'm so glad, I'm so proud and honoured...to have these cats.
-It does make them precious... more precious.
Thank you for having them, and thank you for giving them the home they deserve.
Chris, thank you for getting them out.
In the end, the previous owner of the cats wasn't prosecuted
because of fears over her mental health and age.
But prosecution isn't the primary goal of these rescuers.
It's animal welfare.
So, if you know of a creature that's the victim of cruelty or neglect,
remember, there are people out there
who'll answer your call right around the clock.
They are who we meet on Animal 24/7.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Series following the people fighting to protect Britain's wildlife and pets. RSPCA Inspector Chris Shaw makes a grisly discovery in a house of horrors, a stolen dog is reunited with its owner and presenter Tom Heap helps rescue a badger from a backyard.