Tom Heap goes a few rounds with Rocky the 16-foot python, a puppy is left struggling to walk because of cruelty, and a group of hedgehogs is squatting in a garage.
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Britain's animals are under threat.
All too often our wildlife and domestic pets
are the victims of cruelty, persecution and neglect.
Fighting to save them is a dedicated band of people
trying to protect and care for them right around the clock.
This is Animal 24:7.
In the air, on land and in the water, Britain is a haven for animals.
When they come up against man, their lives are often in danger.
From our cramped inner cities, to our fields and hedgerows,
from the highest moorland, to the coast and beyond,
Animal 24:7 is with the people working around the clock
to save endangered wildlife and protect vulnerable pets.
These are their stories.
Today, on Animal 24:7.
Buster, the puppy crippled by cruelty.
-I threw him towards the doorway, and he banged into the door.
We need to get that dog to a vet, get it some pain relief, if nothing else.
Abandoned by their mum, the prickly squatters living in a garage.
This is very unusual, I've never seen them nest like this before.
And seconds out, we go a few rounds with Rocky, the 16ft python.
Never turn your back on one and never ever think you know everything about it
-because that's the day it's going to bite you.
But we start with the story of Buster, a young dog subjected to cruelty by his owner.
Buster is just part of a surge in the number of cases of cruelty and neglect in Britain.
Some owners treat cruelty so lightly they don't even turn up at court to face the charges.
But the RSPCA won't let them get away with it.
This is what can happen if you ignore a prosecution brought by the RSPCA.
I'm PC Acres, I am from Ashton-under-Lyne police station. You are under arrest.
-You don't have to say anything...
This man has been found guilty in his absence of cruelty to his dog.
The court has now issued a warrant for his arrest.
You're making my kids cry.
The owner is a single parent and he's worried about his children.
It's a distressing situation for everyone involved.
But for RSPCA inspector Vicki McDonald it could easily have been avoided.
If he had turned up at court, we wouldn't have had this trouble.
His kids wouldn't have had to go through this upset.
He wouldn't have to go through this. He knew when he needed to be there.
The story started five and a half months earlier.
The RSPCA received an anonymous tip-off about a lame puppy.
Is he known to you?
On the this first visit, Vicki arrives with the support of the police.
-Hiya, are you Johnny?
-Yeah, what's this about?
I've had a call about a dog at the property.
Someone's a bit concerned about a dog.
-Can I just come through?
-Cheers. Thank you.
-Can I go in there?
The dog is a seven-month old Staffordshire bull terrier called Buster.
Straight away, it's clear he's in pain and his owner admits he has hit him.
About three days ago the dog went for my youngest son.
And erm... I smacked him for it.
I immediately regretted doing that, but...
I also knew I couldn't let him snap at my baby.
My son's four years old.
Even if Buster did growl at his son, this is no excuse for throwing him across a room.
You know, there's me who lives here, my two sons. One of my sons is at school, and I take him to school.
The dog is in a caring and loving home.
Somebody has said to me that the dog has received injuries as a result of
something that you've done and now isn't able to balance on its legs.
He can balance on his legs. It's obvious that he's in a bit of discomfort, I appreciate that.
Is this since you told him off, he's had this injury on his leg, is it?
Yes, it is.
-Has the dog been to the vet for this?
-No, not yet.
OK, I'm going to caution you, so you do not have to say anything,
but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned
-something which you later rely on in court. Are you going to give me permission to take the dog?
Let me record this conversation in my notebook.
This is a clear case of cruelty.
Under caution, Vicki asks Buster's owner to explain exactly what has happened.
This will be used as evidence.
Just so that the vet knows, how did the dog received the injury?
Was it from being thrown across the room?
It wasn't like a throw across the room.
-I threw it towards the doorway area and he banged against the door.
Can you just initial your answers on here for me?
You've answered 'yes' that you understand the caution there. You can read through it.
Buster is only seven months old.
Being thrown across the room has left him in agony and struggling to walk. But that's not all.
For such a young dog, there are also some worrying scars on his head.
Vicki is now extremely concerned about his welfare.
The pup's clearly got injuries, hasn't it?
Its really uncomfortable on its back-end, there.
It's got some old injury.
That's not just a cut its received on its head, the skull is lumpy there.
We need to get that dog to a vet, get it examined, get it X-rayed.
At least get it some pain relief, if nothing else.
Come on, then, you.
Here you go. I think I'll carry you to the van, to be honest.
Save you walking.
Come on, then, poppet.
OK, I'll be back in touch with you later. All right?
All right. See you.
Vicki now needs to prove that it's this man's actions that have caused Buster's lameness.
She's taking the dog to the vet.
His findings will be crucial in any prosecution.
It's so sore, his back-end.
We'll get you sorted.
Buster will now remain in the RSPCA's care until the outcome of the court case.
But, whatever happens, he's unlikely ever to come back to his owner.
Still to come, the vet's examinations reveal a worrying problem for Buster.
His mind isn't telling him that his foot's in that position and that he needs to correct it.
We'll just see what the X-rays tell us.
And me, scared of snakes?
I help move Rocky, the 16ft python, to a new home.
That is one big snake, isn't it?
What a weight, what a weight!
Most of the time, wild animals keep a safe distance from people.
But, sometimes, they seem to want to get up close and personal, making homes in more unusual settings.
It could be a bird in your chimneypot or a mouse in your house.
Both typical of how creatures creep into our domestic lives.
These are not the only places where animals make themselves at home.
Animal rescuer Trevor Weeks is well used to finding animals in unusual places.
But sometimes even he's surprised.
-Oh, wow, they've got a nice nest there, haven't they?
-My daughter's been looking after them.
He's at a house in Sussex, where a family of hedgehogs have made their home in a cupboard.
This is very unusual.
I've never seen them nest in a cupboard like this before.
They're nice and warm.
They're gorgeous little things.
For homeowner Paula Bond, their arrival also came as something of a shock.
My brother was actually putting some stuff in here, and he moved a jacket, and it was a bit heavy.
As he lifted it, a couple of the babies fell out of the arm.
So, what we did was we picked up the jacket, popped it in the cupboard.
Since then, the mum comes down the ramp we made, she disappears for the night and comes back in the morning.
The hedgehog family have been enjoying the Bonds' hospitality,
but last night their bedding was changed
and now Mother has disappeared.
I'm going to leave them here for the moment
and see what happens.
I think revisit them later and see if they start wandering.
I think we'll keep a close eye on these for the next 12 to 24 hours
and if Mum does abandon them, we'll have to bring them in and make sure they get a good meal and a good feed.
Paula's daughter has been feeding them milk and bread, but this isn't recommended.
My daughter was trying to help.
The wives' tale say bread and milk, but unfortunately it is not very good, I'm afraid.
Trevor leaves out a plate of cat food instead.
That's nice and moist, anyway.
That might even encourage Mum up, as well.
We don't really want to give her more than 24 hours without coming back.
So, if I can
ask you to keep an eye on them tonight,
and then if they start calling, or start wandering,
give us a ring and they'll have to come in.
-I'm quite happy to come back at about 11 o'clock tonight.
And have a look and check them, see if they're getting cold.
Because if they don't eat, they may get cold and then they'll have to come in anyway.
With the the baby hedgehogs safe for now, Trevor leaves Paula with the prickly problem of monitoring them.
He heads off to another creature that's gate-crashed its way into a home nearby.
This time, it's a bat in a bungalow.
Hello there, Wildlife Rescue.
-You've got a little bat for us to look at?
I was just clearing up before it rained and noticed the little chap on the ground.
-He was down on some rubble, covered in cobwebs.
I thought it was dead, actually.
Then my husband had a look and picked it up and it moved.
It needs feeding. We've been feeding it house flies.
OK. He's nice and lively, as well, so he's not too weak.
I can see the bottom part of his body is very thin.
With no obvious signs of what's causing the bat to be so thin, Trevor opts for a second opinion.
I think what I'm going to do
is let the experts deal with this and let them assess him.
I'm not going to stress him out trying to do it myself.
Let's get you into here.
With the bat losing weight and unable to fly, its prospects don't look good.
It's going to need careful handling if it is going to survive.
Trevor takes it to expert Jenny Clark.
She has 25 years' experience of handling bats.
Right, we've got a little bat for you.
I'm just going to give him a drink
before I examine him to make him more comfortable.
Jenny confirms it's a pipistrelle bat and is severely undernourished.
Bats get dehydrated very quickly.
They've got such a large skin area.
Is that better?
That's enough for the moment.
After a drink, a closer inspection
reveals this bat may have been deliberately attacked.
Here we go. We have a bit of tattered membrane
and a tiny hole which is usually Mr Cat.
That will be the problem why the bat is unable to fly.
I would suggest that Mr Cat has been lying in wait for Bat
when it came down to drink,
put out its delicate little paw and tossed it.
The membrane is ripped.
The skirmish has also damaged the bat's fur coat.
Jenny will have to clean this up to enable it to grow back healthily.
There we go. We're getting there.
Now, a bat who has a matted coat won't survive long.
It can't control his body temperature. This will soon grow.
The bad will comb it and that'll be fluffed up in no time.
Next comes the delicate operation
of clearing dead tissue from the damaged wing.
I'm just looking at the edge of the membrane
for any dried necrotic tissue.
There's a little bit which has to be removed.
There we go. There's a little bit on that edge I've taken off there.
That's healthy tissue. That's all healthy. That's good.
Then, Jenny uses her expert knowledge of bats to persuade this one to take his medicine.
We have to use a bit of guile.
If we stroke the forehead, and the little mouth opens.
Let's get the tissue out of the way. There we are. Open up.
Open wide, that's it.
And we put a bit on the back teeth.
There you go. That wasn't so bad, was it?
Eat it up. Good batty.
He is then carefully put into a padded box
where the inside of an oven glove will serve as his temporary home.
The membrane should mend within two months, hopefully.
Then, when he's the right weight, and with a mended membrane,
I shall fly him in the sitting room.
And I may have to fly him over a period of a week or two
every other day to build up his strength and stamina,
then can be released. Hopefully.
It's a successful rescue
and if anyone can give this bat a brighter future, it's Jenny.
..one of the baby hedgehogs makes a run for it.
There's number six.
And Buster, the injured puppy, shows signs of a troubled past.
He appears to have had several injuries.
For seven months old, I think he's been very unlucky.
Rescuing unwanted pets isn't always about cute cats and dogs.
With a 20% increase in the number of people owning exotic pets,
call-outs concerning more dangerous animals are on the rise.
In Essex, a 16ft python is looking for a new home.
So this job is going to need a special kind of person,
brave enough to take on the fight.
This is Rocky, weighing in at 100lbs and 16ft in length.
She's a real heavyweight champion.
Rocky is a 20-year-old Burmese python
and the prized pet of Keith Ramsey.
But, in recent years, she's become too hot to handle.
How come you've got such a big snake in your garage?
It came with the wife, actually.
We met about 18 years ago and she already had the snake which then,
I guess, was about three years old.
Years ago, when it was younger, it was easy to handle.
My children used to play with it.
It was great fun.
In recent years, due to the size, we just have become very wary,
I think, of the dangers of handling such a large reptile.
So, Rocky hasn't had much human contact in recent years?
Not in the last four or five years, no.
You've become a bit nervous of something that big?
I think so. Yes.
Keith is now moving to Spain.
So Rocky needs a new keeper.
Who's prepared to go a few rounds with this champion,
who's so big she's not been handled for almost five years?
Enter dangerous and wild animal rescuer, Ian Newby.
-So you've got a bit of kit in here?
-Yes. Just a box.
That's very large Tupperware you've got there.
-I'm not sure it's big enough.
-We might need a bigger box.
In Ian's corner today is Sam Heals.
It's just as well. Ian is punching well above his weight.
The Burmese python is one of the biggest snakes in the world
and it's capable of crushing a man to death.
Ian's come prepared for a fight with Rocky.
-She's not venomous, is she?
-But a bite can still be a fairly unpleasant experience?
Very unpleasant. A snake this size, it will be like a punch.
You'll feel the force of somebody punching you.
Attach, then, 30 or 40 teeth, straight into your arm or shoulder,
face, or whatever, and it will hurt.
And the teeth are going to be a centimetre long.
If she holds on, and tries to coil round,
that's why you should never handle snakes over 10ft long on your own.
Even if you are experienced, always make sure there's someone else that can actually help you.
So the idea is that if it starts wrapping itself round you,
Sam is going to be the one that's going to uncoil? Is that right, Sam?
Yeah, we don't mind the little ones, it's the big ones that are the problem. It could be interesting.
-You haven't seen it.
So you may as well have a look and then we'll try to catch her and bring her out.
Ian's ready, so it's time to finally meet his opponent.
I have to say the word monstrous springs to mind. Monstrously large.
Only when you feel the power of something that size do you really get respect for them.
Never turn your back on one and never think you know everything because that's the day it'll bite.
Well, if I wasn't on edge already, I think you've certainly put me on edge now. That's great. OK.
I'm going to make myself scarce, I think. Head up to the other end. Watch from a safe distance.
-Good luck, Sam.
-OK, if you go over this side, the door opens this way.
The problem with this is really the unpredictability.
It can go to ways and they're very different.
Either very docile, or very aggressive.
-I'm gonna go for this.
-Go on, then.
-Just stand back a little bit.
-Give you some space.
See what kind of reaction I get.
Seconds out, round one.
Ian softens up his opponent with careful use of his hook.
All right, there. There you go.
And it seems to work. Rocky doesn't fight back.
-We're on our own. All right?
Carefully does it.
It's round one to Ian.
Hang on, I'll put her over my shoulder.
But Rocky looks like she's about to strike.
Hang on a second, Sam.
Calm down, fella. That's it. Let's go.
I keep well back as the fight moves outside to the car park.
Have you got the tail-end, Tom?
That is one big snake, isn't it?
What a weight, what a weight!
There's a good lad.
It's between my legs.
There we go.
-It's a lot bigger than I thought it was.
Yeah, but she's lovely condition, isn't she?
-She's doing really good.
Hello, darling. Is this your first time out in a few years?
She is absolutely beautiful but I have to say, as her tail whips round between my legs,
still a little bit unnerving.
That is gorgeous.
Now Ian needs to keep her calm for the journey back to DWARF,
and he's got just the thing - a good old-fashioned duvet cover.
King-size, of course.
Are you in?
I always thought getting a quilt into one of these things was tricky. It's nothing compared to this.
-Just twist that. There's a cable tie there.
And, in a break with tradition, Ian decides to have a weigh-in after the fight.
Very heavy shoes, you understand, that's why it says 14 stone.
It's not me, of course. Right, let's give it a go.
And it's time to find out who the real heavyweight is.
If we pass that over your shoulder, tell me when you're ready.
Are you ready? We'll let go. You're there.
-It's gone right round, it makes it one stone.
-Your legs are buckling.
Minus my weight, Rocky weighs in at a massive 7.5 stone.
It's just beginning to wriggle in the bag. I think it's warming up!
It's time I put my load down.
So far, Ian's proved more than a match for Rocky but it's crunch time.
Will we need a bigger box?
I don't think she'll go in.
Yeah, she will. I'm not going to put the lid on.
Yeah, she'll be in.
She's squeezed in?
Yeah, she'll just manoeuvre herself round to a comfortable position now. There we are.
So with Rocky squeezed into the box, it's time for us to leave,
and this ordinary suburban house is her new home - DWARF HQ.
Ian rescues all manner of wild and dangerous animals
and keeps them in his specially adapted backyard until they can be found a new owner.
-There's a good girl.
-Now it's time to get our new guest settled in.
-Are we feeding her into her new home?
-Yeah, next two or three feet.
-OK, do you want to...?
-There she goes.
-How are we doing?
That's about half of her.
I've already fed in quite a few feet and there's more to go yet!
-There's a bit more to come.
-This is a perfect halfway house for Rocky
but Ian's confident he will soon be able to find this heavyweight champ a new permanent home.
I shouldn't have a problem finding her a good home.
She's such good condition, she's a gorgeous animal.
There are people that do care for these animals.
She's really exploring her new surroundings.
Every log and ledge is getting slithered over to check it out.
And it is mesmerising to watch.
Still to come: Trevor decides whether these baby hedgehogs can survive without mum.
This is a really difficult one to call, to be honest.
They're still nicely cuddled up together.
They may well survive the night.
Now back to the story of Buster.
Buster is a seven-month-old puppy
who's in pain and struggling to walk.
His owner has already admitted throwing him across a room after he growled at his son.
Now RSPCA inspector Vicki McDonald is taking the young dog to the vet's
to see what damage has been caused.
In Bury, Manchester RSPCA inspector Vicki McDonald arrives at the vet's.
She's hoping they'll explain why Buster is struggling to walk
and why he's covered in worrying scars.
Despite being frightened and in pain,
Buster remains good natured and is happy to be carried around.
Are you being a good boy?
Vet Gus McKenzie has prepared a room for the injured puppy and is ready to check him over.
-How are you doing?
Who have we got here?
This is Buster.
He's come from a property where the owner has admitted
that he threw him across the room after an incident.
He's been thrown about seven foot, landing on a door.
By the door or against the door?
He says he's hit the door. In what way, I'm not entirely sure, but he's landed on the door.
He's been lame ever since. He said he woke up yesterday and was particularly worried about it
and thought he should take him to a vet.
Any idea what time he threw the dog?
Don't know as yet, I've only done a brief interview with him.
But certainly when we arrived, the dog was laying down and had a lot of difficulty walking.
He's choosing to sit down on his back end, rather than be up on it.
And has he made any comment about the scar on top of his head here?
He says that the scar on the head was a cut
the dog received some time ago and then the dog was scratching at it.
It almost looks like it could be some sort of a scald injury, that,
but I think it's an old injury. I don't think it's related to this episode.
And we see there's a small cut on his left leg.
That looks about two days old.
It doesn't look like it's a big problem, it's healed over all right.
After checking all of Buster's scars,
Gus wants to see how he walks,
but the young dog can only manage a few short steps. The vet has seen enough.
Yeah, sore in his left hind leg, isn't he?
-Probably both, actually, but he's more painful on his left.
Good lad, come this way. He'd rather be sitting down.
That's the thing.
Even though he's uncomfortable, Buster never once growls and is still desperate for attention.
Are you a good boy? Who's a brave soldier?!
Gus wants to know how anyone could ignore his pain.
There's some...justification, if a dog actually attacks one's child,
that your reaction would be to pick the dog up
and throw it out of the way,
but if it's lame like this, I would expect
having sorted that problem out, to then seek veterinary advice.
So it depends what sort of injuries we've got here and whether it's
reasonable not to have sought veterinary advice.
Right, what I'm going to do now is assess whether there's any nervous damage to the hind legs.
You can see he can wag his tail quite happily.
Don't worry, I'm not going to cut his tail off.
I just want to see if he can feel this,
any reaction at the front end there?
Buster can sense his tail and back feet being squeezed.
So he can definitely feel that.
He also reacts to a needle being pricked in his back.
He can actually feel that needle prick.
This means there isn't significant nerve damage to his spine.
I think what is interesting is he's allowed me to squeeze his toes
with a pair of scissors and his tail and stick needles into them.
He's shown not the slightest bit of aggression,
so whether or not, you know...
what the score was with him apparently going for the child, I don't know.
So far Gus's examinations aren't showing any nerve damage.
What they are showing is Buster is a good-natured dog.
You don't seem to be too bothered.
-Still wagging his tail.
-Who's a good boy?
But then Gus performs some simple tests on his back feet
and they reveal a worrying problem.
See, when I turn it,
he's snapping that straight into position.
Whereas with that one, he's not.
That means the nervous pathways aren't working properly.
His mind isn't telling him that his foot's in that position
and that he needs to correct it.
-We'll just see what the X-rays tell us.
Buster is sedated and anaesthetised ready for his X-rays.
Then Vicki spots yet another old wound.
I've found a stitch still in him here
and you can actually see a faint line running down here,
which suggests that he has, for some reason, had an operation before.
Two things I'd be interested to know, why has he, what was it for?
But also, it goes to show that if this is some surgery he's had whilst in the care of this man,
this man has the knowledge that veterinary treatment is at times necessary.
And a closer examination reveals even more scars on Buster's body.
He's got further grazing here.
Vicki takes photographs. These will form evidence for the court case.
He appears to...to have had several...several injuries,
yeah, for seven months old, I think he's been very unlucky.
It's just establishing exactly how unlucky, isn't it?
This job has suddenly become much more complicated than first thought
and Gus still needs to know what's causing his lameness.
Difficult on examination to say
whether there's going to be any fractures there or not.
It could be simply muscular but X-rays will tell us.
Coming up: Buster's owner is finally brought to justice.
I don't want to be filmed.
This is the actual warrant here.
Earlier in the programme, animal rescuer Trevor Weekes
was called to some baby hedgehogs living in a garage cupboard.
It seemed like their mother had abandoned them.
Trevor left the babies with food and water and promised to return later,
giving their mum a chance to come back.
It's almost 11pm in Sussex and Trevor Weekes is back at Paula Bond's garage.
He wants to know if mother hedgehog has returned to her babies.
OK...well, the food hasn't been touched.
Trevor's attempt to lure her back with a plate of free food hasn't worked.
Now, with the babies potentially at risk, he has a tough choice to make.
This is difficult to call, to be honest.
The food hasn't been touched
but they're still nicely cuddled up together
and they're still nice and warm.
They may well survive the night, I think.
The fact that they're not moving at all as yet,
nothing has come back to look at the food at all
but they're not calling.
You know, they're nicely curled up together.
I would have expected Mum to have come back, eaten the food and the youngsters to be OK.
Although there's no sign of the mother, Trevor decides to give her one final chance to return.
Abandoned youngsters are normally calling and wandering around
and that clearly isn't what we've got here.
I really don't want to bring them in unless I absolutely have to
because quite often if a cat disturbs the nest, Mum will leave,
to draw the attention away from where the youngsters are.
But that's normally at the time of the disturbance,
rather than this long afterwards.
-I'm inclined to say we'll leave them and check on them again first thing in the morning.
That's the best way forward.
Nine hours later and Trevor is back at the garage again.
This time, though, there's been an unexpected development.
Any sign of possible mum?
-No but the food's all gone.
Oh, there has been some movement.
The food has been eaten and there's evidence the young are starting to move around.
The cat food is down onto the floor. We've got bedding down on the floor.
The only thing that concerns me is they're not as warm as yesterday.
And one of the six babies has vanished.
But as Trevor weighs up what to do, he hears a noise.
-That is a bird outside, isn't it?
-Ooh... Follow me.
It's the missing baby - lost, distressed and calling for Mum.
There's number six. I thought there were six last night and I could only count five.
Then I heard some squeaking in the background and initially I thought that was a bird.
And it's not, it's a little hedgehog.
And then I looked out the garage and I could just about see him.
That gives me a clear indication that these are probably abandoned,
so I think I've now got the evidence and proof I need to bring them in.
The babies are just a few weeks old
and still reliant on their mother's milk.
If Trevor left them, their chance of survival would be bleak.
These animals probably would have a vitamin deficiency or nutritional problems if we left them
and just kept putting food down for them.
So I think we need to bring them in so they can begiven the care and treatment that Mum would give them.
It's time for these babies to move out of their makeshift home.
Come on then, you, little 'un. So in you go.
The Bond family have done a good joblooking after them
but now Paula has to say a reluctant goodbye.
We've been checking them every evening, every morning, especially my daughter.
She wanted to rear them herself now.
But if they've got a good chance of surviving, it's better they've gone.
The hedgehog hospital is just a short distance away
and staff have been preparing for the new arrivals.
Hedgehog specialist Melissa Fisk will now be their foster mum.
OK, we've got six young hedgehogs. I think they're about four weeks old.
I put some cat food in a dish and most was eaten in the night.
Oh, excellent, that's good. OK, right.
First, the hedgehogs are weighed and marked so their progress can be monitored.
Right, so we just put a bit of colour on each one -
this is non-toxic - so we know who's who and what the weight is, erm...
Yeah, and if they need medicines.
Yeah, that's a little boy.
They look nice and healthy in themselves. They're nice and clean.
Usually the flies will get to them and they'll sort of lay eggs in no time at all.
We usually, you know, do get them in at this size where they've been covered in fly eggs.
Looking after baby hedgehogs is much harder than people think.
Hedgehogs have got so many illnesses that they can suffer from
that if you don't know what you're looking at, an animal could go downhill quickly and then die.
But luckily these youngsters were rescued just in time
and now they're able to stay as a family group.
I'll put them into their bed now. They're all weighed
and we will get them into bed and get them some food and drink.
The future for these looks good, yeah, hopeful.
It doesn't look like there's anything obviously wrong with them, so just a case of building them up,
monitoring their health and off they go in a couple of months
We now know that these are definitely abandoned,
so there isn't a mum out there looking and searching for them.
And we know they'll be hand-reared properly.
They will hopefully be nice and fit and healthy in a couple of months
and can go back out to where they deserve to be, in the wild.
Living in the garage may have been a case of cupboard love for these young orphans
but the experts can give them the long-term specialist care they need
and they'll be back in the wild very soon.
Finally today, it's back to Bury in Greater Manchester,
where RSPCA inspector Vicki McDonald is investigating a dog cruelty case.
Buster the seven-month-old Staffie had been thrown across the room by his owner.
He's had difficulty bearing weight on his hind legs ever since.
Now he's at the vets and his X-ray results are back.
Buster is shaky and unsure
and is left in peace to come round from the anaesthetic.
Meanwhile, vet Gus Mackenzie is trying to establish the cause of his lameness.
The left hip is definitely abnormal compared to the right hip.
The bone development is not normal in this area here,
compared to the other side, where you've got more normal development there.
There's a possibility of Legg-Perthes disease going on here.
We can't make a definitive diagnosis on that
and my plan would be to put it on pain relief, rest,
re X-ray in four to six weeks' time,
and then confirm whether or not we've got Legg-Perthes disease,
in which case we may need to recommend surgery.
Another problem for Buster to overcome.
It's relatively common and could be cured by an operation
but the X-rays also reveal more unusual injuries that may prevent this surgery.
There has been a fracture of some description here,
which has been repaired with a screw
and what we call a Kirschner wire. That stabilises the fracture.
The dog was probably three to four months old
when it received that injury, whatever that injury was.
It's not a hugely common injury but we do see it
and it can happen as a result of all sorts of traumatic episodes.
Buster's X-rays are slowly unravelling this dog's troubled past.
Next, Gus attempts to determine what may have caused the scars on his head.
There's a lump of extra bone here and that extra bone,
we would normally expect, would be as a result of some sort of bang on the head.
Buster's got a distressing portfolio of pictures,
something his owner will now have to explain.
It worries me that a dog of this age has received as many injuries as it has and appears to have...
..other suggestions of traumatic experiences.
What I need to do now is speak to... Go back and speak to him,
interview him and see what he has to say about it,
and it will help us form a better picture of what the situation is that we've got here.
But I think Buster's certainly been through a lot in a short period of time.
Vicki may never be able to prove how Buster's old injuries were caused
but his owner has already admitted that he threw him across the room. That in itself is cruelty.
Are you feeling a bit woozy?
Hey? You're a good boy.
Yes, you are. You are a bit wobbly, aren't you?
After seven long months of tests and X-rays,
the vets finally come to an agonising decision.
Buster is just over a year old
but has more than a lifetime of injuries.
Even if they operated, his damaged limbs are just too weak
to support him through his recovery.
It's heartbreaking but the best thing for Buster is to end his suffering.
Vicki is with him in his final moments.
We've just given him mild sedation, prior to putting him to sleep.
I think it's better for him just to be a little bit woozy just before.
I want this just to be as least stressful for him as possible.
He's had enough stress in his life already.
It's a sad end for Buster
and a day all RSPCA inspectors dread
but at least Buster's pain will soon be over.
You always hope for a happy ending, especially with, like,
cases that have been particularly cruel and nasty.
You always like to have a happy ending
but unfortunately life isn't always like that.
It's not always the happy ending that you want.
Buster's owner still has to account for his cruelty.
The RSPCA charge him with causing unnecessary suffering to his dog.
But he fails to turn up at court on two occasions
and is found guilty in his absence.
23 weeks after Buster was thrown against a door,
the police arrest his owner.
This is the warrant that's been issued.
Now there is another charge to add to his conviction for cruelty - failing to appear in court.
Buster's owner is ordered to do 200 hours' community service
and banned from keeping any animal for ten years.
Although it's been a sad ending for Buster, for the RSPCA
this has been a chance to show there's no excuse for animal cruelty and no escape from the law.
If you think you know of a case of wildlife crime,
or a creature that needs immediate protection,
remember there are dedicated professionals out there who will answer your call around the clock.
They are the people we meet on Animal 24:7.
Next time: The frightened boxer in need of rescue.
A dog that's nervous can turn aggressive,
so I'm just gonna give him chance to recognise what's going on.
In search of the 30 foot sharks in Scottish waters.
Yeah, there's a shark about 100 metres at half-past 12.
And the home-grown squirrels fighting for survival.
It's my first proper sight, actually, of a red squirrel other than on the telly.
-They're beautiful creatures.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd 2009
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Series following people who protect and work closely with wildlife and domestic animals.
Animal 24:7 presenter Tom Heap goes a few rounds with Rocky the 16 foot python. Also featured are Buster - a puppy struggling to walk because of cruelty - and a group of baby hedgehogs squatting in a garage.