Episode 3 Animal 24:7


Episode 3

The police investigate after a family of swans is massacred in a brutal attack. Presenter Tom Heap is with the RSPCA investigating reports that goldfish are being kept in a toilet.


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Transcript


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Britain's animals are under threat.

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All too often, our wildlife and domestic pets

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are the victims of cruelty, persecution and neglect.

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Fighting to save them is a dedicated band of people,

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trying to protect and care for them around the clock.

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This is Animal 24:7.

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Today on Animal 24:7...

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Killing for kicks - a sickening attack on a family of swans...

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It doesn't matter how many times you see it,

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every job you go to always affects you.

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It shouldn't have to happen.

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The tiny kittens who miss their mum...

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These kittens are going to die if we don't intervene.

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And are these fish about to go down the pan?

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TOILET FLUSH

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For most animals,

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the first few weeks of maternal bonding are crucial.

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For kittens, it's recommended they stay with their mothers

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for at least two months.

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It's during this period that mother's milk

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is vital for nutrition and growth.

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So if they're taken away too early, their lives CAN be in real danger.

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On a Hull housing estate, two new-born kittens

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have sparked an RSPCA investigation.

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Meet Trouble and Precious.

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They've just been sold by a man claiming they're seven weeks old,

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but during routine vet checks, the buyer was told they were more

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like four weeks old - much too young to be away from their mum.

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And Trouble and Precious weren't the only kittens in the litter.

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RSPCA inspector Sarah Keith has gone straight to the seller's house,

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hoping that no more kittens have been sold.

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Sarah is convinced this cat is the mother,

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and she's been locked outside.

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I can't see if there's anything in there.

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The cat is desperate to get in, leaving Sarah in no doubt

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that the remaining kittens are inside and they need their mum.

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KNOCKING ON DOOR

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These kittens are going to die if we don't intervene -

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they can't feed themselves.

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They need to be either bottle-fed by someone or, ideally, fed by Mum.

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And she's not able to get in the house so...

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There doesn't appear to be any answer.

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But Sarah and student inspector Nicky Cheatham can't see or hear the kittens.

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I can't see anybody.

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I can't see any cats.

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Sarah's becoming as anxious as Mum to get inside.

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RSPCA!

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Being locked out away from her litter

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totally goes against the cat's maternal instincts.

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She's been doing everything she can to be a protective mother.

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The mother cat is being really defensive of this territory.

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She knows she's got young inside, or she thinks she's got them inside,

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and she's trying to protect them.

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She's just had a go at another cat

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and a dog that walked past the property, so she's being a good mum.

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But she's obviously not being allowed to do her job properly.

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Unable to get to the kittens, Sarah decides to have a closer look at this frustrated mum.

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She's obviously got enlarged teats.

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She doesn't seem...

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She seems to be quite dry which...

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If he's preventing her from feeding, that will happen eventually.

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She will just dry up and stop producing, but...

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She's all right - she's not too thin or anything.

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Not too bad. Just a bit scraggy, aren't you?

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It's clear no-one's in, so Sarah and Nicky head round the back...

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BARKING

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..where they're confronted by a large Rottweiler

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who's obviously not happy with the intrusion.

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But Sarah is desperate to see some sign of these kittens

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and isn't going to give up too easily.

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-He's tethered.

-He's tethered?

-Yeah.

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Fortunately, the dog is on a leash

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so Sarah is able to take a look through the back window.

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We can't really see if there's anything in there.

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There is a bowl, an empty cat-food bowl with quite dried cat food on it,

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and a bowl of water with some water in, but no sign of any kittens.

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Even though she still can't see any kittens,

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Sarah's not prepared to give up.

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She leaves a card, asking the owner to get in touch.

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It's now mid-afternoon, and Sarah and Nicky are back on the estate.

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KNOCKING ON DOOR

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The owner is home,

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but he doesn't want the inspectors to see the kittens.

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Right, if I need to, I can call the police and get us to do it that way,

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but I'm handling the kittens whether you like it or not,

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so I suggest you pass them over.

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He tells Sarah there is no way she's taking his kittens away.

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That depends on what they feel like when we get hold of them.

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Finally, though, he allows Sarah and Nicky to examine the litter.

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Hello. Hello, baby.

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He's adamant the kittens ARE seven weeks old.

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They're not seven weeks.

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Sarah's patience is wearing thin -

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she can tell these kittens are much younger than the owner is claiming,

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certainly too young to be separated from their mother.

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Is it a male or a female, that one?

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I can't even tell - you're too tiny, aren't you? It's a little girl.

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The kittens aren't in good health.

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Sarah wants them signed over to the RSPCA

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so she can take them and Mum straight to the vet's,

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but the owner's not cooperating.

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Are you going to give me permission to take these cats or not?

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Right.

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It's time to apply a bit more pressure.

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Hi, I'm calling from the RSPCA. I need to request a police officer.

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It's regarding some kittens that are in very poor condition

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that have been taken away from their mother far too young.

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Yeah, he's refusing to give me his last name,

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he's refusing to let us in the property

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and he's refusing to let us take the cats.

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After several minutes, the police are on the scene

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and the owner has a sudden change of heart.

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He agrees to sign over the kittens to the RSPCA.

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Although kittens can be weaned from around four weeks old,

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they're nowhere near ready to go it alone.

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They need their mother's milk to help them grow strong and protect them against infectious disease.

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This litter are finally back with their mum.

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And they're now on their way to the vet's to find out

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whether being kept away from her has put their lives in danger.

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Still to come...

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Playing Mum - the large dog caring for two tiny kittens...

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This is Tia who is going through a phantom pregnancy

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because of the presence of these babies.

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She's been looking after them like they are her own.

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Well, done, big girl.

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And words of warning for a dog owner accused of smacking her pet.

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I'm just going to just warn you

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that it's illegal for you to hit your dog, OK?

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If you cause your dog an injury, you could potentially get

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a very, very big fine or go to prison, all right?

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It's a sad fact that an increasing number of animals

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end up dying at the hands of thugs just killing for kicks.

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Air rifles once used by kids just to take a pot shot

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at a tin can or two are often trained on defenceless creatures.

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In Gateshead, police have been called to a beauty spot,

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but the sight that greets them is far from pleasant.

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The tranquillity of this Tyneside nature reserve has been shattered

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by a fatal gun attack on a family of swans.

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The local police are first on the scene and they immediately call

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RSPCA animal collection officer Jackie Thorpe.

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We received a phone call this morning from the police alerting us

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that there were four dead cygnets and one dead male swan.

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The mother is still alive and we think

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they appear to have been shot.

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RSPCA inspector Tony Jackman begins the grim task of removing the dead swans from the water.

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It doesn't matter how many times you see it - every case, every job you go to always affects you.

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It shouldn't have to happen.

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Then, assisted by a police diver,

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Tony turns his attention to the cygnets.

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I can see an injury on this one.

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Yeah, that one's had one straight through the neck there, it seems.

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That might have died quickly, that one, thankfully.

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This is the male swan. He seems to have an injury on his head.

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I think this is where the pellet's gone in.

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Here we've got one of the young cygnets

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with a wound injury to his neck there.

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It's been very distressing for members of the public walking past

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because they've been following them since they've been born.

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Then, when they've come past this morning with the dogs...

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To find them in this state must've been horrendous.

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They discover that the swan is ringed.

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ZZ-45-08...

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A note is taken of its number so the Swans Trust can be told of his death.

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-That's it.

-Brilliant. Thank you very much.

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As awful as this massacre is for the local community,

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it's heartbreaking for the remaining female. Swans form strong bonds

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with their mates and are extremely protective of their young.

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On top of that, she's injured and needs help.

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So, I think if we start off over here

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and sort of head through in this direction...

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As Tony plans the rescue, Jackie can assess her condition from dry land.

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We haven't seen her close up. When she's been swimming on the water,

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it looks like she's got two injuries to her neck and one to her head.

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But she's swimming well. So we're hopeful for her,

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if we can get her to the vet soon.

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Tony and the police diver take to the water with swan hooks

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to try and catch the female, but they need to be careful.

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Even when it's injured, catching a swan can be challenging.

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The two inspectors, at the moment,

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they're going to try and go round either side

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and try and catch her and bring her back to shore.

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But if not, they'll drive her back towards the shore.

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It's very, very stressful for them to be caught.

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While they're on the water, they've got a much quicker advantage over us,

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whereas if they can get her towards the land,

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we'll have a better chance of catching her.

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Tony's just trying to put a swan hook round her neck.

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The swan will be traumatised by the loss of her mate and cygnets.

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She is understandably wary...

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She's hiding under the bushes now.

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..but she needs medical attention.

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Even though she doesn't know what's good for her,

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Tony and the rescue team do.

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She's heading over to where the male was.

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The swan seeks refuge in thick reeds where hooking her will be difficult.

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Time for plan B - driving her towards the shore.

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Getting through the bank of reeds will be harder for the inspectors, because it'll slow them up.

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Oh, but now she's coming towards us.

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-Ready, Jackie?

-I'm here.

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-Just keep coming.

-She's coming your way.

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Bring her back towards me, Tony. I might be able to get her from here.

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Oh, well done.

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The swan is covered in blood. If she had been left in the water any longer, she may not have survived.

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Brilliant that we've caught her.

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So, we can try to get her straight up to the vet's now,

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and get her treated, hopefully.

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As well as the wound on her back,

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the swan appears to have been shot in the head.

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-It's the top, isn't it?

-Possibly one injury on the top there.

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The swan bag keeps the wings down

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and it keeps the legs trapped in as well,

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so that they can't thrash around and hurt themselves.

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Now they've seen the extent of the injuries,

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Jackie must get the bird treatment and fast.

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Meanwhile, the rest of the family will become evidence

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in a criminal investigation.

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Depending on their age,

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they could be entitled to have an air rifle,

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but it's actually using it...

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And certainly, taking shots at wildlife is against the law.

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We take it very seriously indeed.

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And in terms of the public, they view it very seriously as well.

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These are their birds, that's the way the local community see it

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and they want something done about it.

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The locals waste no time in responding.

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A witness has already reported seeing a car

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in the area at the time of the shooting.

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This information may lead the police to the culprit.

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It's encouraging news,

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but it doesn't help the rescuers understand such a senseless crime.

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People have been passing all the time, seeing them growing up,

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you know, from eggs.

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There's people here crying their eyes out that this has happened.

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Somebody's come along here and just sat there and taken shots at these birds.

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Little defenceless birds like this and they've killed them.

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It's absolutely unbelievable. I cannot get my head round it.

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Coming up...

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On the vet's table the injured swan faces an uncertain future...

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50-50. Just depends how much damage has been done underneath the skin.

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And a family reunion for the litter of kittens.

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She's gone straight for the small black one

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and just licked it so it's sodden. She's recognised them straight away.

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It's now feeding fantastic.

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Good girl.

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What a good mum. She's brilliant.

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Hitting your dog is an offence and, if your pet is injured,

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you could be prosecuted,

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but what if your dog does something you feel really needs punishing?

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Say it growls at a child.

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For many, the instant reaction might well be to lash out,

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but as I discovered when out with the RSPCA,

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this is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

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It's a hot, sunny day in London

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and I'm on the road with RSPCA inspector Claire Ponsford.

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Our first call is to a flat in the north of the city

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where there's been an anonymous complaint about an owner who's been seen hitting her dog with a lead.

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It's quite a difficult one for you -

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you're unlikely to catch them in the act.

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What can you do, assuming you don't?

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It's almost impossible to prove unless, obviously, the dog is injured

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and the person, the owner, hasn't taken it to see a vet for some reason.

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It's really an advice call, just to let the person know

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that we're aware, that we've had a call about them.

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-And you've got your eye on them.

-Yeah.

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Won't they cower a bit, the dogs?

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They can show signs of nerves and of fear,

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behaviour being not quite as you would expect.

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'The owner answers, but not in the conventional way.'

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Hello! I'm with the RSPCA.

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We've had a call about a dog at your flat.

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I need to come and have a look, please, madam. Can you let me in?

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OK, that's fine. Thank you.

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-A towel.

-Gone to get a towel? So, she's possibly underdressed.

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I think she was.

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The owner does eventually appear...

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fully robed.

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Hello, madam. I'm with the RSPCA. I've had a call about a dog.

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Can I come in? Thank you very much.

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Hello, sweetheart. Come on.

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What's he or she called, the dog?

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-Honey.

-Honey. It's a girl, is it?

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'The dog seems friendly enough...'

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Hello! Oh, you're weeing.

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Oh, dear, that's not good.

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-Does she do that a lot?

-No.

-No.

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'..but her little accident immediately gives Claire cause for concern.

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'It could be a sign that she's nervous around people.'

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I'd had a call that somebody had been seen hitting your dog with a chain,

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with a lead or something like that.

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It was... What can I say? Naughty.

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The dog was naughty? Right.

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-I said to it, "Naughty," that's it.

-Right.

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How often do you do that to the dog?

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-How often do you hit the dog?

-No. No, no.

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-Just once.

-Just the once, OK.

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If it's just the once, I'm just going to just warn you

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that it's illegal for you to hit your dog, OK?

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If you cause your dog an injury,

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you could get a very, very big fine or go to prison. All right?

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'Hitting a dog is a serious offence and Mrs Eskabar is lucky here

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'to get off with a warning,

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'but Claire still wants to know why she hit her dog.'

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What did she do yesterday, then, that was so naughty?

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-You know, because she try to say, "Grrr!"

-To growl?

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Growl, that's it! And I say, "You're naughty,"

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because she likes to play with the children.

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Dogs do that because they're on the same level as them and the same size.

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That's a good thing, it's good if she's socialised with the children,

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but if you hit her when she's playing with the children,

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she might get more nasty so it's not a good thing to do.

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No. Lovely, lovely...dog.

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It looks nice.

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Yes, everybody likes her.

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'As the dog was growling at her grandson,

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'Mrs Eskabar thought she was doing the right thing.'

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Growling at the children doesn't sound like a great idea.

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What should you do with a dog like this?

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Training is about using the tone of voice, so it's about a firm "No,"

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moving her away, shutting the door. OK?

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By hitting the dog or something like that, you reinforce the behaviour

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and give the dog the attention that she was looking for.

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So you just need to move the two apart, ignore the bad behaviour.

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And when she's good, when she plays nicely with the children,

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give her a treat, give her lots of fuss.

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She will very quickly learn that if she growls,

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she can't play with the children.

0:19:320:19:35

'Claire is reassured this was a one-off incident.

0:19:350:19:37

'Honey is showing no signs of distress.'

0:19:370:19:40

Well, thank you very much for your time today. Thank you.

0:19:400:19:43

'Claire is happy to leave her in a home where she's clearly loved and cared for.'

0:19:430:19:49

Well, that all turned out rather more productive than I expected.

0:19:490:19:52

Yeah, it's rare that anyone admits to hitting their dog.

0:19:520:19:55

-Yeah, yeah.

-Turned out really well.

0:19:550:19:58

She's listened to advice and I think a lot of it will sink in.

0:19:580:20:01

It proves that sometimes allegations seem awful and it's the other way.

0:20:010:20:05

Good.

0:20:050:20:06

'While it's tempting to join the rest of London's cafe society

0:20:110:20:16

'soaking up the sunshine,

0:20:160:20:17

'it's on to the next job with Inspector Ponsford.

0:20:170:20:20

'This call could easily be a hoax.

0:20:200:20:22

'It certainly sounds a bit fishy to me.'

0:20:220:20:25

We've got a rather unusual case of goldfish being kept

0:20:250:20:28

in a toilet cistern in a restaurant. Brought your fishing net, Claire?

0:20:280:20:32

This is quite an interesting one, isn't it?

0:20:320:20:35

It's a good one for a sunny afternoon.

0:20:350:20:37

It seems comic, but do you have to take it seriously, this stuff?

0:20:370:20:40

We do. I mean, the fish are still protected to a certain extent.

0:20:400:20:44

It's a genuine complaint from a member of the public,

0:20:440:20:47

so I investigate it.

0:20:470:20:48

-And you can't have them flushed away.

-No, we can't.

0:20:480:20:51

'This could be our catch of the day,

0:20:510:20:53

'but first we need to reel in the bar manager, Byron Knight'

0:20:530:20:58

We've received a call about the fish in your toilets. Can I come and look?

0:20:580:21:01

Of course you can.

0:21:010:21:02

'I wait with baited breath to see what's prompted the complaint...'

0:21:020:21:07

Oh! Look at that!

0:21:070:21:09

'..and I'm shocked that fish are indeed kept in the toilet.'

0:21:090:21:13

So they are ACTUALLY in your cistern, so what happens?

0:21:150:21:18

No, they're not. Pull the handle and see.

0:21:180:21:20

Can I pull the chain? This is quite good, isn't it?

0:21:200:21:24

'Just one pull gives the impression

0:21:240:21:27

'that the fish in the tank are going down the pan.'

0:21:270:21:30

Wow, look at that!

0:21:300:21:31

'But it's just an illusion -

0:21:310:21:32

'a pretty convincing one, especially if you've had a drink or two.'

0:21:320:21:36

-Got these in the gents?

-I have, yes.

0:21:360:21:38

Can you check there's no-one in, so I can have a look, sir?

0:21:380:21:41

-I can check in this one if you want.

-Thank you. You've got two in there?

0:21:410:21:46

Yeah.

0:21:460:21:48

There they are. A couple of goldfish in the gents as well.

0:21:480:21:51

It does give you something to look at.

0:21:510:21:53

Let's try the flush.

0:21:530:21:55

Brilliant.

0:21:590:22:00

'It's a clever gimmick.

0:22:000:22:02

'But joking apart, I'm keen to know if this really

0:22:020:22:06

'is a suitable environment for a goldfish.'

0:22:060:22:09

-Claire, have you any issues with this?

-I don't.

0:22:090:22:11

This is probably one of the cleanest fish tanks I've seen, to be honest.

0:22:110:22:15

-The fish look happy. And you've had them?

-Seven months.

0:22:150:22:18

And that's quite a long time, to be honest,

0:22:180:22:20

for goldfish in particular, to survive.

0:22:200:22:23

They're obviously happy in that environment

0:22:230:22:25

and he's providing everything they need.

0:22:250:22:28

I'd say it's all panned out fairly well.

0:22:290:22:32

-THEY LAUGH

-Flush with your success.

0:22:320:22:34

-Thank you very much.

-You guys are very welcome.

0:22:340:22:37

'So, at the end of the day,

0:22:370:22:39

'that's one call that's had us all well and truly taken in...

0:22:390:22:42

'hook, line and sinker.'

0:22:420:22:46

Still to come...

0:22:490:22:50

investigations begin to find the killer of a family of swans.

0:22:500:22:54

We'll send them now for forensic tests and hopefully be able

0:22:540:22:58

to match up the pellets

0:22:580:23:00

to the weapons that were seized earlier on today.

0:23:000:23:03

Now we return to the story of six kittens taken away from their mother.

0:23:060:23:11

Two, Trouble and Precious, have already been sold.

0:23:110:23:15

After a bit of persuading from the police,

0:23:150:23:18

the owner agreed to sign the other four over to the RSPCA.

0:23:180:23:21

Now it's a question of whether the kittens will survive.

0:23:210:23:25

RSPCA inspector Sarah Keith arrives at Swanbridge vets in Hull

0:23:310:23:36

with four tiny kittens and their mum.

0:23:360:23:38

The litter has had a good feed after finally being reunited, but they're still very weak.

0:23:410:23:47

Their owner told Sarah they're seven weeks old,

0:23:490:23:52

but the vet confirms these kittens are probably just four weeks old...

0:23:520:23:56

You are a bit skinny, aren't you?

0:23:560:23:58

..far too early to be completely weaned.

0:23:580:24:01

Each baby gets a thorough examination from the vet.

0:24:010:24:05

The main concern is Dotty who's the weakest of all.

0:24:050:24:09

You're a bit skinny too, aren't you?

0:24:090:24:11

They've been deprived of regular milk from their mother,

0:24:110:24:15

so they're all susceptible to illness and injury.

0:24:150:24:19

The vet's examined the kittens, some of them are quite thin.

0:24:190:24:23

Not too bad to the point where they're emaciated

0:24:230:24:26

and they've actually been caused to suffer,

0:24:260:24:28

but I don't think it would've been long before that happened

0:24:280:24:32

if she hadn't been allowed to feed them.

0:24:320:24:34

So I'm really pleased we've managed to get them out tonight

0:24:340:24:37

and we haven't had to leave it another day. She's happy.

0:24:370:24:40

She was really stressed before, but she's obviously really happy

0:24:400:24:43

now that she's reunited with her babies.

0:24:430:24:46

The family are clearly happy to be back together,

0:24:460:24:49

but the reunion isn't complete.

0:24:490:24:51

It's early the next morning, and Sarah is back on the road.

0:24:540:24:58

She's on her way to collect the two kittens who'd already been sold.

0:24:580:25:01

The woman who bought them, who wants stay anonymous, phoned the RSPCA

0:25:050:25:10

when she discovered the kittens were much younger than she had been told.

0:25:100:25:13

The two babies, called Trouble and Precious,

0:25:160:25:19

have been calling for their mum.

0:25:190:25:21

And Sarah quickly discovers that something incredible

0:25:230:25:26

has been happening in this house.

0:25:260:25:28

The large family Rottweiler has taken on the role of surrogate mother for these two tiny kittens.

0:25:300:25:35

This is Tia. She's actually started producing milk

0:25:350:25:38

and she's been looking after them like they are her own.

0:25:380:25:42

Well, done, big girl.

0:25:420:25:44

She's going to have to go to the vet's.

0:25:440:25:46

Unfortunately Tia's got to have the vet see her now,

0:25:460:25:49

because, obviously, she's producing milk

0:25:490:25:52

and she's experiencing this phantom pregnancy,

0:25:520:25:54

but she hasn't got any babies of her own to suckle from.

0:25:540:25:57

So she will have to go to the vet's and be sorted out,

0:25:570:26:00

but what a clever girl.

0:26:000:26:02

Tia is not actually feeding these kittens...

0:26:030:26:06

Is this one of your babies?

0:26:060:26:08

..so the owner has had to step in at meal times.

0:26:080:26:11

They've been being bottle-fed every couple of hours

0:26:110:26:14

with a special solution for baby animals.

0:26:140:26:16

It's no good giving them milk

0:26:160:26:18

or anything that's come from cow or otherwise.

0:26:180:26:20

It has to be specially formulated for young animals.

0:26:200:26:23

Had they been left with Mum for long enough, none of this would be necessary.

0:26:230:26:27

So when we reunite them, she'll take straight back to them

0:26:270:26:30

and there won't be any further issues.

0:26:300:26:32

And then, once they're old enough to be weaned and fully strong,

0:26:320:26:36

then we can return them to their new owner.

0:26:360:26:38

I purposely left the blanket in the basket yesterday

0:26:380:26:41

that she was on with the other kittens,

0:26:410:26:43

so hopefully the scents will cover up anything they smell

0:26:430:26:46

of them being in a different environment.

0:26:460:26:49

Tia's not the only one who's been looking out for the new arrivals.

0:26:490:26:53

There's also another older kitten called Leila.

0:26:530:26:56

She's a ten week old kitten, nearly ten weeks old,

0:26:560:26:59

so if we compare and contrast - this little one is supposed

0:26:590:27:02

to be eight weeks, according to the person that sold it,

0:27:020:27:05

and this is ten weeks old.

0:27:050:27:07

We know this is ten weeks old, that's not eight weeks old.

0:27:070:27:10

Now it's time for Tia to say goodbye.

0:27:110:27:14

If it's all right with you, I'm going to take these kittens

0:27:140:27:18

and reunite them with their real mum, but well done.

0:27:180:27:20

She clearly doesn't want to let them go.

0:27:220:27:25

Yeah, they're going to go in there.

0:27:250:27:27

And Leila doesn't seem too keen either.

0:27:270:27:31

Oh, he's so tiny.

0:27:310:27:33

So tiny. You go in there, darling. There you go.

0:27:330:27:39

Sorry, Leila.

0:27:390:27:41

There's a good girl.

0:27:410:27:43

Oh, good girl.

0:27:450:27:46

Good girl.

0:27:490:27:50

If all goes well, Trouble and Precious will be back in a couple of weeks.

0:27:500:27:54

Bye! Thank you.

0:27:540:27:56

And that can't come soon enough for Tia.

0:27:560:28:00

Although they've been well cared for,

0:28:050:28:08

what these two really need now is their real mum.

0:28:080:28:11

Right, let's have a look.

0:28:110:28:13

But first, they need to see the vet.

0:28:130:28:16

Can I have a look, babies?

0:28:160:28:17

They're very skinny, though. Very bony.

0:28:170:28:21

They're just not getting enough, are they, these kittens?

0:28:210:28:25

They look like ragamuffins, these two, don't they?

0:28:250:28:28

These two obviously have had the advantage of being bottle-fed

0:28:280:28:33

every few hours from the lady who luckily picked them up,

0:28:330:28:37

but nothing's as good as Mum's milk so hopefully,

0:28:370:28:41

when she gets back onto it, they'll all be brightening up.

0:28:410:28:44

And now the time has come for Trouble and Precious

0:28:440:28:47

to finally join the rest of the family,

0:28:470:28:50

but it's not THAT straightforward.

0:28:500:28:52

They've spent five days in a new home, being cared for by a Rottweiler.

0:28:520:28:58

Sarah's worried that Mum won't accept them.

0:29:010:29:05

Look, darling, there's your babies.

0:29:070:29:10

Who's that? Oh, good girl!

0:29:100:29:13

Straight away, she's licking away.

0:29:130:29:15

But thankfully, it's like they've never been apart.

0:29:170:29:21

You recognise them, even though they smell of Rottweiler! Good girl.

0:29:210:29:27

Clever girl.

0:29:300:29:31

Snuggled straight in.

0:29:310:29:34

Good girl. What a good mum.

0:29:340:29:36

She's brilliant.

0:29:360:29:38

She's gone straight for the small black one

0:29:380:29:41

and just licked it so it's sodden.

0:29:410:29:43

She's recognised them straight away,

0:29:430:29:45

it's now feeding fantastic.

0:29:450:29:47

They're going to smell funny, cos they've been without her for a week,

0:29:470:29:51

but she's gone straight in and licked them

0:29:510:29:54

to get her own scent on, so I'm well pleased with that.

0:29:540:29:57

It's another successful reunion for Sarah,

0:29:570:30:01

but after all that time away from Mum,

0:30:010:30:03

these kittens are much weaker and more fragile than they should be.

0:30:030:30:07

The next few weeks will be critical.

0:30:070:30:10

Still to come...

0:30:170:30:20

One of the kittens is left behind after breaking her leg.

0:30:200:30:24

It's not just a combination of the time of weaning,

0:30:240:30:27

it's that it didn't get the best nutrition once it had left its mother.

0:30:270:30:31

In fact, I think it hardly got any nutrition.

0:30:310:30:33

Now we're back to the story of a family of swans shot by an air rifle.

0:30:360:30:41

The father and four cygnets were killed,

0:30:410:30:44

the mother was found with blood stains on her back

0:30:440:30:47

and a gunshot wound to the neck.

0:30:470:30:49

Information from the local community has led police to two youths whose car was seen in the area.

0:30:490:30:56

They've now confiscated an air gun they think was used.

0:30:560:30:59

Meanwhile, the mother has just arrived at the vet's.

0:30:590:31:03

The lone survivor of the multiple swan shooting on Tyneside urgently needs medical help.

0:31:120:31:18

RSPCA officer Jackie Thorpe has brought her

0:31:210:31:23

to the Berwick Swan Trust where she'll be examined by the vet.

0:31:230:31:26

Well, it feels to me as if it's almost gone in there and out here.

0:31:260:31:31

We'll soon find out with an X-ray this evening.

0:31:310:31:33

David can't feel any air-gun pellets but he'll need to do an X-ray to be certain.

0:31:330:31:39

I think what we're going to do, just now anyway,

0:31:390:31:41

is give her painkillers and some antibiotics.

0:31:410:31:44

The priority now is to ease the bird's pain.

0:31:480:31:52

After such a bleak start to the day, Jackie is relieved that the swan now has a chance of recovery.

0:31:530:32:01

She travelled up really well, she was very quiet.

0:32:010:32:03

She started hissing when I pulled up, so I knew that that was a good sign.

0:32:030:32:07

The next few hours will determine how seriously injured the traumatised bird is.

0:32:070:32:13

50-50. Just depends how much damage has been done underneath the skin.

0:32:130:32:17

You're up against the back of the throat here.

0:32:170:32:19

There's a lot of very important veins and arteries going up.

0:32:190:32:22

To the brain, for example.

0:32:220:32:24

If they happen to have been damaged...

0:32:240:32:26

They could have brain damage, a lot of damage done to them.

0:32:260:32:29

For now, the swan needs to rest and be left to recover in peace.

0:32:290:32:33

I like to look on the bright side and make sure it's positive for her.

0:32:330:32:37

For Jackie, her work is not yet over.

0:32:370:32:41

This is one of the dead ones that was found on the pond...

0:32:410:32:44

The bodies of the dead swans now need to be examined.

0:32:440:32:48

Anything David finds will form part of the criminal investigation.

0:32:480:32:52

David immediately finds a foreign body with his scalpel.

0:32:550:32:59

The suspicions are correct. It's an air-rifle pellet.

0:32:590:33:02

Here it is. You can see that in there.

0:33:020:33:04

Can you see it there? Air rifles weren't all that powerful,

0:33:050:33:08

but now they can pump them up and they get them

0:33:080:33:11

very near as powerful as a .22, and that is a lethal weapon.

0:33:110:33:14

If that hit a child in the eye, something like that,

0:33:140:33:17

it could blind them or even kill them. So, you know, it is lethal.

0:33:170:33:21

The size of the pellet compared to the size of the cygnet's neck...

0:33:210:33:25

It's quite big in comparison and we know for definite they've been shot,

0:33:250:33:30

so we'll send them now for forensic tests and hopefully be able

0:33:300:33:33

to match up the pellets to the weapons

0:33:330:33:35

that were seized earlier on today.

0:33:350:33:37

A few days later, and the surviving mother swan is X-rayed.

0:33:400:33:44

Thankfully, there's some good news.

0:33:440:33:46

The X-ray shows the pellet hasn't caused any serious damage.

0:33:460:33:51

David removes it and is now confident the wound will heal.

0:33:510:33:55

Two months on, and the injured mother

0:34:020:34:05

has made a remarkable recovery - her wounds have healed

0:34:050:34:09

and she's even made friends with two other birds.

0:34:090:34:12

She's done SO well, that she's now ready to go back to the wild.

0:34:130:34:18

She seems not too bad.

0:34:200:34:21

She's, if anything, the most belligerent of the lot!

0:34:210:34:24

She's a lovely swan.

0:34:240:34:25

There are no external signs of her wound.

0:34:250:34:28

The swan has a green mark sprayed on her neck,

0:34:280:34:31

so she can be identified among her new companions.

0:34:310:34:34

We're going to take it out.

0:34:340:34:36

We'll catch it first of all and then have a good look at it.

0:34:360:34:39

Check... Feel how the wing's feeling

0:34:390:34:41

and then take them down to the river and release them.

0:34:410:34:45

Makes the job really worthwhile.

0:34:450:34:47

Hello, girls. What are you doing, then?

0:34:470:34:50

With the help of two colleagues, Richard and Barry...

0:34:500:34:53

Steady, pet.

0:34:530:34:54

..the swans are rounded up

0:34:540:34:56

and David gives his patient a final examination.

0:34:560:35:00

Fine. Absolutely fine, in point of fact.

0:35:000:35:04

And after being given the all clear,

0:35:040:35:06

it's into the swan bags which will protect the birds on their journey to their new home.

0:35:060:35:12

There's a good girl.

0:35:120:35:14

The release site on the River Tweed

0:35:150:35:17

is a long way from Gateshead where the shooting took place.

0:35:170:35:21

David is hoping this will help the swan start a new life in a place that holds no bad memories for her.

0:35:230:35:29

Quite heavy, aren't you, pet?

0:35:290:35:30

And she wastes no time.

0:35:330:35:36

Within a few minutes, the swan is on the water...

0:35:360:35:39

Lovely to see them go, though, isn't it?

0:35:390:35:42

..closely followed by her companions.

0:35:420:35:45

They look very happy now.

0:35:470:35:49

When you see them going off onto the river again,

0:35:490:35:51

it makes it all worthwhile.

0:35:510:35:53

There's no doubt, no matter how much work you do on them,

0:35:530:35:56

if you can actually get them back to the wild,

0:35:560:35:58

and see them going back to the wild, it makes a lot of difference.

0:35:580:36:02

It's been a traumatic few months for this swan,

0:36:050:36:08

but as she heads off with her new friends,

0:36:080:36:11

the future is now much brighter.

0:36:110:36:13

And a few weeks after that release,

0:36:180:36:21

a 17-year-old admitted killing the swans

0:36:210:36:24

and possessing an air gun while under 18.

0:36:240:36:27

He was given a Referral Order and required to pay £60 in costs.

0:36:270:36:33

Finally, back to the story of the six kittens taken away from their mother while far too young.

0:36:330:36:39

Two of them were sold at just four weeks old,

0:36:390:36:42

but after a police intervention,

0:36:420:36:45

the rest WERE signed over by the owner to the RSPCA.

0:36:450:36:49

When we last saw them, all six had just been

0:36:490:36:52

reunited with their mother, but they faced a critical few weeks.

0:36:520:36:57

At Swanbridge vets in Hull, there's mixed news.

0:37:020:37:05

Mum has gone back to her home, Trouble and Precious

0:37:050:37:08

are back with their surrogate mother, the Rottweiler,

0:37:080:37:11

and new owners have been found for the rest of the kittens...

0:37:110:37:15

apart from one.

0:37:150:37:16

Dotty has a broken leg, so she's been left behind at the vet's.

0:37:180:37:23

Being deprived of mother's milk

0:37:250:37:27

can leave a young kitten weak and fragile.

0:37:270:37:30

Dotty broke her leg shortly after arriving six weeks ago.

0:37:300:37:34

It was so bad that vet John Levison thought they'd have to amputate.

0:37:340:37:39

This is Dotty... The little kitten's, left hind leg.

0:37:390:37:43

OK? Back leg.

0:37:430:37:46

And if you look here, it's quite obvious

0:37:460:37:49

the ankle, the equivalent of your ankle, is in the wrong position.

0:37:490:37:53

That's what it should look like,

0:37:530:37:56

and that little piece of bone has come off.

0:37:560:37:58

Premature weaning doesn't help them growing,

0:37:580:38:02

mother's milk's the best,

0:38:020:38:04

in which case there may be an underlying weakening of the bone.

0:38:040:38:07

It's not a combination of the time of weaning,

0:38:070:38:10

it's just that it didn't get the best nutrition

0:38:100:38:12

once it had left its mother. I think it hardly got any nutrition.

0:38:120:38:16

Dotty's had a pin put in her leg

0:38:160:38:18

and she's been stuck in a cast for weeks.

0:38:180:38:21

Come on, then, Dotty.

0:38:210:38:23

Today is a big day for her.

0:38:230:38:25

The vets are removing the cast to see if the leg is healing properly.

0:38:250:38:29

This is a tough procedure for a young kitten,

0:38:320:38:35

so she'll need an anaesthetic.

0:38:350:38:36

First, the leg is shaved.

0:38:380:38:42

Then John administers the anaesthetic, which quickly takes effect.

0:38:420:38:47

Oh, sweet dreams. Nighty-night.

0:38:470:38:50

There you are, just gently let her go that way.

0:38:500:38:53

With Dotty fast asleep, John starts to cut away the cast.

0:38:530:38:58

He's hoping the leg is in the correct position.

0:38:580:39:02

Touch wood, if this heals as we'd like,

0:39:050:39:08

there should not be any long-term effects.

0:39:080:39:11

John is worried that Dotty could end up with a permanent limp or arthritis later in life.

0:39:110:39:16

With the bandage removed, he can take a proper look at the injured leg.

0:39:180:39:21

That's a nice straight line.

0:39:230:39:25

Right.

0:39:260:39:28

Check the pin's not bothering above there.

0:39:280:39:31

No signs of discharge. The alignment... Nice pink toenails.

0:39:310:39:37

Right, smell it.

0:39:370:39:39

There's no nasty smells, cos often you can smell an infection.

0:39:390:39:43

So we're dead chuffed with her.

0:39:430:39:45

I think probably two more dressings and that'll do us.

0:39:450:39:48

Young growing cat - heals quickly. Happy with the alignment, so yeah, we're happy at this stage.

0:39:480:39:54

We're always cautious, because if you say, "Everything's fine, love,"

0:39:540:39:58

and then it isn't, then you look a bit of a Charlie.

0:39:580:40:01

But honestly, I'll be disappointed if this one doesn't do fine.

0:40:010:40:04

Dotty's leg is put in a fresh cast.

0:40:050:40:08

She's well on course to make a full recovery...

0:40:080:40:12

but has still some way to go.

0:40:120:40:16

This little kitten has had a difficult start to her life.

0:40:160:40:19

She now needs plenty of rest and more time to heal.

0:40:190:40:22

A month later, and at a nearby foster home,

0:40:310:40:34

Dotty has come on leaps and bounds.

0:40:340:40:37

The cast has come off and she's got a bit of company.

0:40:380:40:43

Dotty's spent most of her short life at the vet's,

0:40:430:40:48

so she's staying with foster carer Andrea Mitchell for a bit of luxury.

0:40:480:40:52

Absolutely spoilt rotten. She's my baby now.

0:40:520:40:56

Not for good, just for as long as she needs it.

0:40:560:41:01

Then, she'll be taken to the homing centre and somebody can adopt her.

0:41:010:41:05

But before that, Dotty still needs plenty of rehabilitation.

0:41:050:41:10

If we compare her two back legs together,

0:41:100:41:13

we can see how her broken one is MUCH thinner

0:41:130:41:16

and we can see where she just needs to build the muscle.

0:41:160:41:20

That shouldn't be a problem,

0:41:200:41:22

because Dotty's certainly not afraid of exercise.

0:41:220:41:26

And it's great to see this playful kitten making up for lost time.

0:41:280:41:32

It's been very tough. She's only 16 weeks now,

0:41:320:41:35

so she's spent half of her life in the veterinary hospital already.

0:41:350:41:40

So she's probably missed out on half of her life of playtime,

0:41:400:41:45

but she's soon making up for it. She's fine.

0:41:450:41:49

She's a gorgeous girl.

0:41:490:41:50

I'm pleased to say that all the kittens are thriving

0:41:580:42:02

and Dotty found a home just three weeks later.

0:42:020:42:05

If you think you know of a case of wildlife crime

0:42:050:42:08

or an animal that needs help,

0:42:080:42:10

remember there are dedicated professionals out there

0:42:100:42:13

who'll answer your call right around the clock.

0:42:130:42:16

They are the people we meet on Animal 24:7.

0:42:160:42:20

Next time on Animal 24:7...

0:42:220:42:25

Hello!

0:42:250:42:26

..catching up with an owner who's neglecting her pet...

0:42:260:42:30

We've been told by a neighbour

0:42:300:42:31

that when she saw my van outside the property, she went.

0:42:310:42:35

Which makes me worried that there's something wrong with her dog.

0:42:350:42:39

..rescuing the animals from a sanctuary in crisis...

0:42:390:42:43

People would come and dump animals, tie them to the front gates.

0:42:430:42:47

It just got to the point of total saturation.

0:42:470:42:49

..and I meet some old friends.

0:42:490:42:51

It would've been one of the kites released

0:42:510:42:54

the last time you visited us here in 2006.

0:42:540:42:56

That one's out there in the wild, doing what kites are supposed to do.

0:42:560:43:00

-I gave that bird its freedom.

-Absolutely.

0:43:000:43:02

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:120:43:15

E-mail [email protected]

0:43:150:43:18

Series following people who protect and work closely with wildlife and domestic animals.

The police investigate after a family of swans is massacred in a brutal attack. There's help for some tiny kittens separated from their mum, and presenter Tom Heap is with the RSPCA investigating reports that goldfish are being kept in a toilet.


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