Tom Heap joins the operation to save a group of cats and dogs from appalling conditions, and it's baby season at St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.
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Britain's animals are under threat.
All too often, our wildlife and pets are victims of cruelty,
persecution and neglect.
Fighting to save them
is a dedicated band of people trying to care for them around the clock.
This is Animal 24:7.
'Today, on Animal 24:7...'
'..rescue for the pets held in unbelievable squalor.'
Her body condition is one to two. It should be five.
'The pony left in pain by a DIY pedicure.'
These were taken off very straight. I don't know if that hurts.
Does that hurt, mate?
'And it's trial and error...'
It flew about 50 yards.
'..getting these swifts back to the skies.'
Brilliant! You're better at it than I am.
Over the years on Animal 24:7, we've brought you stories
of people who fill their homes with animals.
These "animal hoarders" are rarely cruel,
but the sheer numbers mean it's difficult to care for them properly.
In east London, the RSPCA has learned about another case,
and have invited me to join the operation.
But nothing's prepared me for what we're about to find.
'It's Christmas Eve. Most people are preparing for the festive fun.
'I'm with a team of RSPCA and police officers
'planning an operation at a house in Hackney.'
That first one there. You've got these gardens. These are walls...
'Intelligence suggests the occupant is keeping pets in poor conditions.'
We've got reason to believe there are numerous animals in there,
possibly over ten dogs, ten cats and numerous small animals.
They're going to be very nervous, very skittish.
We'll have to do it one by one, each animal checked by us and the vet.
'RSPCA inspector Imara Alagaratna is leading today's operation.'
We have been into this property a number of years ago.
36 rats were removed, and there were a couple of hundred rats in there,
dead and dying.
'Imara needs to check on the welfare of the latest animals.
'The woman has previously refused to allow inspectors into her house.
'Today, Imara isn't taking no for an answer.
'She's armed with a warrant and she's got police as back-up.'
-What are you thinking?
-I'm just very nervous, really.
-Anticipating what I'm going to find.
It's the sheer number of animals, more than the state of the property.
My worst fear is having 20 dogs running towards me!
-What happened when you peeked in before?
-I didn't see any animals, but I heard a LOT of dogs.
Quite a number of flies flew in my face.
'The team makes their move.
'Imara is joined by PC Steve Rogers and vet Brian Barnet.'
Imara, the police, the vet and the housing lady are at the door.
Never sure what will be behind it when it's opened - IF it's opened.
It's the RSPCA. I'm here with the police. Please open the door.
'No-one is answering. Time for plan B.'
Hi, Ryan. It's Steve. Can we draw on that enforcer, please?
'The team plans to break the door down.
'Suddenly, it seems drastic action may not be needed, after all.'
The policeman has found one of the residents.
He's explaining why they need to get in.
They need to see the animals to find out if they're fine.
They've got the authority to get in and they're going to do it today.
'But, it appears, there isn't going to be an easy way in.'
Hi ya. The guy in the wheelchair lives there. Hasn't got keys.
But, obviously, warrant there.
'The police are ready to force their way in.
'PC Rogers gives the man one final chance to let them inside.'
Sir, do you have a key? No?
Get down! Get down!
Show me your hands.
-WOMAN'S ANGRY VOICE
You never know what's behind the door - animals or, in this case, extremely distressed people.
'The strong smell of ammonia is too much for some members of the team.
'From this initial glance inside,
'it's clear everyone needs protective overalls and gloves.'
Just getting here to the porch, the smell is hitting me.
And hitting hard.
'The hallway is jam-packed.
'Amongst it, Imara spots the first animal, which tries to escape.'
Shut the front door.
Open up the basket for me, Tom. I'll squeeze the cat in.
It's very underweight. You can feel its ribs and its spine.
-How does it feel to be in here?
-I'm glad that we got in.
Looking at the state of the animals, they're all very underweight.
I'm glad we're all here.
The smell of the faeces and the urine is making your eyes burn.
'Upstairs, conditions are making searching for the pets difficult.'
-What's it like in there, Steve?
-We found more three cats.
You've been on a few animal rescues, how does this compare?
In relation to the number of animals this is by far the biggest job.
-There's quite a lot of animals here.
-And the state of the property?
The animals have been shut in rooms and left to leave excrement,
and been trapped in the rooms, so the conditions are very bad.
'The RSPCA works quickly, removing the animals.'
-Is that the last one?
'So far, five cats and a dog have been taken out.
'The pavement has become a makeshift A&E.'
It's like a waiting room to be checked over, what they call triage,
finding out which are the serious cases,
giving them that initial once-over before they take them away.
'These early checks are already uncovering problems.'
She's got tartar. She's underweight. She's got a flea burden.
She's skinny. Her body condition's one to two and it should be five.
-She's a kilogramme underweight.
-Not a bad temperament, though?
No. They're nice animals. They've not been to a vet for years.
That's going to protect her against flu, enteritis, leukaemia,
cos she's going with the RSPCA.
'The animals will soon be taken to a much cleaner place.
'Inspector Claire Ponsford documents the condition of each one.'
-Do you want application of flea treatments?
'The team continues to treat the animals on the pavement.
'Next is a terrier, and he's covered in fleas.'
He's been biting himself.
-That's why he's got no hair on him. We're checking for a microchip.
His heart sounds fine.
Nails long. Flea burden. He seems otherwise OK.
'Inside, other pets are hiding in the upstairs rooms.
'PC Rogers must find them, too, so they can be checked over.'
Basically, wall to ceiling.
It's like...cat food boxes, dog food boxes.
The smell is unbelievable.
'Many of the cats and dogs rescued are suffering from skin irritations.
'Brian believes this has been caused by the amount of urine and faeces.
'Meanwhile, the team begins searching downstairs.
'Conditions for the animals here are even worse.
This collar's cutting into the skin. The nails are long.
'And treatment's needed for a lame pony.'
Its feet have been somewhat trimmed.
I'm not sure that'll have been a farrier.
In the spring time in Britain, most of our wild animals tend to have their babies.
Life for these new arrivals can be tough if they're orphaned
and have to fend for themselves.
'Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, Aylesbury.
'Every corner of this animal infirmary is filled with babies.
'For founder Les Stocker and his volunteers it's all hands on deck.'
This really is our busy time of the year.
We've got staff just feeding babies.
Every animal is a baby something...
-I've got a casualty in reception, a hedgehog.
A casualty. That'll be a baby hedgehog.
'Nearly 1,000 hedgehogs are taken in every year.'
-Hi, Francesca. Another lot of babies?
Look at his eyes open!
I think we get baby hedgehogs accidentally.
They'll nest in silly places.
They'll nest in a black plastic sack on the floor.
They'll nest in a compost heap, then people find baby hedgehogs.
And hedgehog mums are notoriously awful mums.
As soon as they get disturbed, they'll run away from their babies,
and these little babies will come out squeaking
and start to wander round the garden.
So we know there's a nest been left, so the babies need to come in.
They're just looking for food, so that's how they come in.
Nobody knew how to rear baby hedgehogs.
We perfected techniques, got the right milk.
We can advise people all around the country now.
-This one's hungry.
-Isn't he just?
'On the bird ward, there's a constant influx of admissions,
'usually after tumbling from their nest.
'They're left to starve, or to the mercy of predators.
'These swifts might have met a sticky end, were it not for Les
'and his dedicated team.'
These have been here since they were tiny.
Swifts nest in church towers. They've gone over the edge.
It's just a shelf. They've hit the ground.
Then they can't fly from the ground, they can't take off, can't feed.
So they come in here as orphans and we have to hand-rear them.
'Adult swifts rarely land and spend most of their life in the air.
'They sleep, eat and mate on the wing,
'only landing to rear their young.'
They've got wonderful wings.
Superb, aren't they? Look at that masterpiece.
'Student nurse Anna-Marie has spent weeks rearing this group,
'gearing them up for a special day.
'Birdie boot camp is over. It's time for their inaugural flight.'
We'll take this group out.
The ones with the longest wings, I'll show you how to release them.
We'll see if we can get some to fly off into the wide blue yonder.
'Swifts usually take their first flight from church towers or walls.
'Without that height, they can struggle.'
Find the ones with the longest wings.
'Les has an age-old technique to get them off the ground.
'It's time to pass his knowledge to the next generation.'
Just get hold of the swift. Then you throw them as high as you can.
If he flies, he flies, but he might come down and you've got to find him.
The first one. All right?
I'll do it on three. I don't know if girlies can throw them that high!
Ready? Oh! I hate doing this!
Ready? One, two, three!
It flew about 50 yards. Bring it back.
'The cadet is unharmed after his crash landing.
'He'll have to wait for another day to reach for the skies.'
Here we go again. One, two, three.
Got one out! Ho ho ho! Good.
'Success. Now, after this quick lesson, it's Anna-Marie's turn.
'This is what weeks of feeding and care have been building up to.'
I'll get ready to pick it up off the floor.
Really swing it as high as you can.
Wow! Brilliant. You're better at it than I am.
'Amazingly, once in the air, these birds are unlikely to land
'for another two to three years.
'With a boxful awaiting lift-off, Anna-Marie and Les
'have a busy afternoon ahead.'
Throw them a bit higher, as high as you possibly can.
Come on. Keep going.
'Still to come, a bad-tempered badger gives Les a hard time.'
Stop biting! We'll get out of here if you let go!
'And the difficult rescue for the pets in the London house.'
The flies are trying to get out.
Everything's rushing for freedom. This is just not right.
We're off to Derbyshire, where the RSPCA's investigating complaints about a lame pony.
An inspector has left a note asking for the owner to get in touch,
but no-one has.
Dave McAdam is en route to see if he has any more luck.
'The outskirts of Chesterfield.
'Inspector Dave McAdam is on a mission.
'He wants to check on a lame pony and find out why its owner
'seems to be ignoring its problems.'
This is the pony, the little chestnut.
Straight away, it looks like it's hobbling a little bit gingerly.
'The pony is clearly in pain. Close up, there are more problems.'
Its feet at the front have been somewhat trimmed.
I'm not sure that will have been with a farrier.
The front of the toe has been trimmed off,
because I think they probably had the slipper feet.
'These hooves are in a real state.
'Dave believes the owner has been trimming them himself.'
You've got to be really careful trimming horses' feet.
These have been taken off very straight.
I don't know if that hurts.
Does that hurt, mate?
'Yes. The pony is extremely uncomfortable
'whenever Dave tries to touch its feet.'
He's walking very "clockwork", sort of on the heel of his hoof.
That's probably classic laminitis.
'Laminitis is a disease caused by eating too much rich grass.
'It's painful and, in some cases, can be fatal.
'Dave wants a vet to see the pony as quickly as possible.'
Looks to me like it's got quite bad laminitis.
If there's any way you could send a vet out to have a look at it.
'Within the hour, vet Willem Shappa is on the scene.'
Come on, young man.
-Is it painful when walking? Is he moving around?
-But gingerly, as I call it. You know?
-It's really sensitive?
Yeah. Especially his off-side.
'After examining the pony, he confirms Dave's fears.'
You could see that he has chronic laminitis.
-You can. By the shape.
-It needs correcting, anyway, by the farrier.
'This laminitis can be treated.
'Willem is concerned that the badly trimmed hooves
'may be adding to his problems.'
Big edges here.
It's not straight.
I don't think there's any abscess, so there's no problem there.
'The priority is to ease the pony's discomfort.
'Willem injects painkillers for immediate relief.
'He prescribes follow-up treatment
'and stresses that it's vital that this pony is seen by a farrier.'
Half twice daily.
'Now Dave needs to find the owner.
'Luckily, this is an area he knows well.
'After making a few enquiries,
'he finds out that the pony is owned by local sheep farmer Andrew Broadbent.'
'Now Dave wants to find out why the pony's hooves are in such a state.'
-Have you had a trimmer, doing it yourself?
To be honest, it's made a bit of a hash of it.
You don't want the laminitis causes that bad...
-He won't stand still.
-Do you know what, mate? He was fine today.
-You'd be surprised.
-Did he lift his leg up?
'Dave's not willing to accept any excuses.'
It's not dear to get the pony's feet trimmed.
'He insists that Andrew takes his pony to the farrier
'and says that he will be back to make sure his advice isn't ignored.'
I'm really pleased with the outcome.
We've spoken to the owner and he's assured me
that he's going to get a farrier out
to remedy the problem with the pony's feet.
He's got painkillers for the next week, so that's going to help a bit.
He's also going to restrict its diet.
I'm going to return and see the pony in two weeks' time.
I like to think that things are going to go well.
'Coming up, a badger goes home.'
There it goes.
I bet it gets home and the missus says, "Where have you been?"
-"A likely story!"
-"A likely story!"
Now, we're back in east London.
The RSPCA and the police have served a warrant on a property
where animals were being kept in dreadful conditions.
They've removed five cats and a dog.
The focus is on getting the rest of the animals out of the property.
'It's two hours since the team gained access.
'All the animals have been removed from upstairs.
'Now the search moves downstairs.
'The next animal to be brought out by vet Brian Barnet is Lassie,
'a six-month-old Staffordshire cross.'
Sit. Sit. Stay. Good girl!
-Staffie cross, young, female.
-Good body condition?
Not much of a flea burden, which is good. And that's her done.
'This owner is passionate about pets,
'but the sheer number has led to problems.'
You can see that she means well.
She's not wanting...
It's not been purposefully harmed. It's just ignorance.
Yeah. It's more neglect. The environment, really.
They're not dying animals. There's food everywhere.
'Gradually, more of the ten dogs are removed.'
'Whilst there are no serious health problems,
'Brian has some concerns.'
This collar's cutting into the skin.
The nails are a bit long. It's got a few wounds on her tummy.
Body condition good.
Wounds on her face and her forehead.
You're just nervous, aren't you?
Hello, darling girl!
'A skinny saluki is the next for Brian to examine.'
What about the condition of that one, Brian?
-Fleas, dental disease, underweight.
-The ribs are visible.
-A few of the dogs look a bit yellow.
-They do. It could be urine scald.
It smells of urine. The environment is just not very clean.
'So far, 15 animals have been removed.
'Imara and PC Rogers go back inside
'to make sure all the pets have been rescued.'
'The way these pets have had to live is not acceptable.
'Many are now suffering health problems.'
Oh! Excrement everywhere!
'PC Rogers desperately attempts to get some fresh air.
'Imara soon finds evidence that dogs and cats
'haven't been the only animals kept here.'
It looks like she's had hutches on top of hutches.
The other one starts at the bottom.
That's the other hutch.
It looks like she's made it into a type of hutch.
This is just all faeces.
I don't know how you dare put your hand in that.
As long as you don't get a bite, you're all right.
-Or covered in faeces!
-We haven't got the final verdict.
-The animals aren't the worst you've seen, I don't think.
But they're living in a place like this.
Clearly, the lady is looking after the animals, in a sense.
She's not beating them or causing them any harm, per se.
But the environment they're living in is unacceptable.
Not for dogs and cats or humans.
It's not even acceptable for rats.
The flies are trying to get out.
Everything's rushing for freedom. It's just not right.
Hopefully, now we're involved,
it's not just the animals who'll be helped, it's also the people.
'The conditions have caused the cats and dogs to suffer.
'It's unlikely they'll come home.'
You're about to take these animals off.
-What problems did you find?
-The cats were underweight, they had fleas.
Some had flea allergy dermatitis, where the skin's raw and red.
Overgrown nails, bad teeth, generally poor condition.
-And the dogs?
Fleas. Some had allergies. They'd been licking themselves raw.
Dental disease, overgrown nails, some skin wounds.
One looked like it was being throttled by its collar.
That was a young puppy which she had from several months ago.
The collar's not been readdressed.
It's been growing. It's got tight.
-How would you sum them up?
I don't think there's mal intent. She loves them truly.
She's unable to look after herself. How can she look after animals?
-Given the right care, should they live happy lives?
The three or four dogs in good condition, she acquired recently.
Left to live like that,
they'll become thin, overgrown nails - it's just neglect.
-How does it compare to other cases?
-It's probably one of the worst.
-What makes it so bad?
-The state of the rooms.
The excrement. The dogs weren't taken for walks.
'As the team conducts final checks inside,
'it seems that these animals may have been the lucky ones.
'There is one final gruesome discovery for them to deal with.
'Still to come...'
-How long has that been dead?
-And just left there.
Earlier, we saw how Les Stocker and his staff were coping with the annual influx of baby animals.
Now, Les has another regular patient to deal with, the badger.
'Out of all the animals Les Stocker rescues,
'the badger is his favourite.
'Often involved in traffic accidents, this hardy animal
'is tougher than most.'
Loads of badgers in again, but we get badgers all the year round.
I love badgers. I think they're the most wonderful animal.
They're so tough.
A car will come along,
every other animal will run away, not a badger.
He'll say, "It's my road!" The car hits him, but a lot of them recover.
I really do like working with them.
'This young female is the latest car crash casualty.
'Les and vet nurse Claire Campbell are taking her for urgent treatment.
'She's unresponsive, but she's a wild animal.
'Les can't take any chances.'
We'd better put a muzzle on, in case she decides to snap at me.
We'll take her through.
'Critical X-rays have been taken. Vet Vicky Ayers has the results.'
I just wonder whether there might be evidence of a skull fracture here.
There's a break in this line. It should be a continuous line.
It's difficult to assess.
There's lots of little bones and you get gaps between the bones.
That should heal, should it?
-It should, provided she's not too badly brain damaged.
She would need supportive care
and some anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling.
It feels a bit bruised all around here, which you'd expect...
It's typical of a badger to get bashed just there.
'Despite coming head-to-head with a vehicle,
'the X-ray shows remarkably little damage.
'This could be due to a badger's natural armour.'
There's a big crest on top of the skull. What's that?
It's the occipital crest, I believe.
It reinforces their skull for when they run headlong into things!
'Vicky suspects there may be other issues left undetected by X-rays.
'Further investigation is needed.'
-She's been breathing all right?
-That's all been fine.
Just to see if there's any bubbling, a sign of bleeding in her chest.
I can't see any rib fractures on the X-ray.
Sounds all right.
'This does give Les some hope, but the badger remains unresponsive.
'The team decides to try food.'
Are you going to swallow, lovey?
There we are!
'Finally, a sign of life!'
What do you think, Vicky? Do we stand a good chance?
The chances are pretty good. She's improved so much in 48 hours.
And the fact that she's taking on some calories now.
'Despite this glimmer of hope, sadly, the badger died
'a few weeks later.
'For every piece of bad news, there's good news.
'For every badger that comes into Tiggywinkles, there's one ready to leave.
'Releasing one into the wild brings a mixture of emotions - joy, relief
'and a certain amount of fear.
'They've got quite a nasty bite.'
Only once in 30 years.
And that was last year.
I spent five days in hospital.
It's not a thing you want to do, get bitten by a badger.
Hopefully, there's a badger in here.
'All that stands between Les and a bite is his grasper.'
You're grumpy already, aren't you?
'The feisty male was rushed in three months ago with a fractured pelvis.
'Now he's fighting fit.'
Come on! Don't bite it. Stop biting.
Just for me.
No. Let go.
Just let go.
We'll get out of here if you let go!
'Les makes his move.'
'But he's not going easily.'
Fun, isn't it?
'This is how Les wants them to be.'
It's good when you get to release an animal
and it's so wild it's unbelievable.
It's going to look after itself. It's not going to go up to people.
It's going to stay very wild, very powerful.
'A field north of Aylesbury. It's dusk.
'Les arrives with wife and co-founder Sue,
'close to the spot where the badger was originally found.'
I think, when you put a badger back like this, he knows where he is.
His family could be within two or three miles.
He'll know where they are.
He'll have no trouble finding his family. He'll go back to his sett.
You know where you are, don't you? You know where you are.
OK, so... Wa-hay! Tip it slightly.
Bit thick. Here he goes.
He's made it all right. He'll stop, look round and say...
Look, he's stopped. Proper look around.
He's all right. Nothing wrong with him.
I bet he gets home and the missus says, "Where have you been?"
-"A likely story!"
-Yeah. "A likely story!"
There he goes.
I've been doing this 30 years now, and it still worries me immensely.
When I see him going into the wild, I'm like a mother hen.
A job well done. He's as fit as a fiddle, strong as an ox.
One repaired badger back in the wild, which is the job we do.
We're back in Hackney, east London.
The RSPCA has almost finished searching the animal collector's home.
The woman had a total of ten neglected dogs and five cats,
all kept in appalling conditions.
But as the search continues,
the team is about to make one final grim discovery.
'After being briefly assessed,
'all the rescued animals are waiting to go to the animal centre.
'Just as the team thinks this job is over,
'vet Brian Barnet has found another cat.
'For this one, the rescue has come too late.'
-How long has that been dead?
-And just left there?
They just dry out. RETCHES
'The cat's carcass will become evidence in this investigation.
'While Imara's priority is the rescued animals,
'the discovery of the dead cat
'has given the officers cause for concern.'
We need to make sure there aren't any further animals still in there.
-Is it a crime scene?
-Yeah. Everything we pick up is an exhibit.
It will be taken to court.
'If the owner's found guilty of neglect,
'she could face a large fine or even a prison sentence.
'No-one's sure what else might be inside this house,
'but that's going to have to wait for another day.'
Been here for three hours. What a three hours it's been!
Not least for the animals - ten dogs, five cats and a dead one.
They're all ready to go.
'Having been freed from the filth and squalor,
'the 15 animals are taken to an RSPCA shelter to begin rehabilitation.'
What's going to happen now?
They're going to stay in kennels, get fed and watered.
The dogs will have a quick bath.
They all smell of faeces. They'll settle-in over Christmas.
They'll all be fatted-up. The vet's going to give them another check.
In the meantime, I'll be getting more information from the owner,
interviewing them under caution, to find out what their story is.
From what you've seen, would you want a court decision
-that says this person is not fit to look after animals?
Without a shadow of doubt.
The animals could find new homes, they're rehomeable?
Definitely. They're all very friendly.
Some are more nervous than others,
but they should come out of their shells.
-It's been dramatic for us. It's more extraordinary for them.
'The owner had some affection for her collection of dogs and cats.
'Attempting to care for so many,
'ultimately had a detrimental affect on their health.
'She's agreed to sign the animals over,
'which will allow the RSPCA to find more suitable homes,
'once they're recovered from their ordeal.'
'Nine months later, and one of the skinny cats confined in the bedroom
'is getting a taste of the outdoors.
'Until Holly's used to her new home with Shirley Vincent,
'she has to be kept on a lead outside.
'It's all part of gradual rehabilitation process.'
She's learning to be a homely cat again.
She's sniffing around everywhere.
She likes to jump up
and sit on your lap.
She's just trying to make a home for herself again.
'Slowly, but surely, Holly's adapting to her surroundings.
'In Brighton, another rescued pet is getting used to a new life.
'This was Lassie when she was rescued.
'She was underweight,
'had a skin irritation and sores from her collar.
'Now she's called Berry
'and is getting used to doing things differently...'
No, Berry! No.
'..with her new owners, John and Lorraine.'
She was not house-trained,
so the first two weeks were quite a learning experience.
We put paper on the floor, had a few accidents the first two days.
She's happy to go outside now.
She was very hyper, didn't do as she was told, didn't like the lead.
Didn't know what toys were.
She's come a long way in a month. She's done a lot in that time.
She's settled in. She knows that she has her bed.
That's where she goes at the end of the day.
'The animals' owner wasn't prosecuted
'but the council has banned her from keeping animals at her home.
'For her old pets, though, the future is much brighter.
'All five cats and all ten dogs have found new homes.
'Like Berry and Holly, they're now enjoying life to the full.'
If you think you know of a case of wildlife crime, or a creature that needs immediate protection,
people out there will answer your call right around the clock.
They are who we meet on Animal 24:7.
'Next time on Animal 24:7,
'we're on patrol with the team searching for suspect breeds.'
You're seizing both of them? You can't seize my dogs just for that.
That's not fair. Look how friendly the dog is.
'Hugo, a huge Rottweiler, trained to attack the police.'
We've been told that he's been putting nails in a stick
and hitting the dog to make it angry.
'And I witness first-hand how the dogs can be victims, too.'
This is a victim. It was attacked by a pit-type dog.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Series following people dedicated to rescuing Britain's wildlife and pets.
Tom Heap joins the operation to save a group of cats and dogs from appalling conditions, and it's baby season at St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.