When Chunky the Chihuahua went missing from his home, his owners had no idea how desperate his situation was. Not only had callous youths stolen the little dog, but they then subjected him to hours of torture before leaving him for dead. Yet while the teenagers may have been able to break the poor pet’s bones, his spirit would prove indestructible.
Chunky lives in Margate, England, with his owners Lisa-Marie and Bonnie-Lee Fittall. In February 2015, though, thugs stole the pet pooch from his backyard. And while the twin sisters would likely have already been disturbed at their dog’s disappearance, nothing could have prepared them for the horror of what happened next.
When the Fittall sisters logged onto social media in the hours following Chunky’s abduction, however, they discovered the terrible truth. Four teenagers had snatched the animal. They then brutally tortured the canine and boasted about their crime online.
“We went on there to find a picture of our dog burned and statuses saying how the boys had done this and how they had done that. [They were] proud of it,” Bonnie-Lee told the BBC in 2015.
Heartbreakingly, though, Chunky’s captors had not just set him on fire. They had also fed him drugs, kicked and punched the animal and broke his leg and neck. And when they had completed their brutal tirade, the despicable youths left the dog for dead on a local landfill site. But, amazingly, Chunky somehow survived.
And thankfully for the little dog, a member of the public found him laying injured on the trash pile the following day. The kind stranger then alerted the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Of course, the charity swiftly began an investigation into the horrific incident; the Facebook evidence in particular, though, truly repulsed the RSPCA officers.
“Chunky was found with a broken leg and neck, and with burns all over his face and eyes,” RSPCA inspector Caroline Doe said in a statement released on Facebook in 2015. “He must have suffered horrendously for hours as the senseless torture took place for the amusement of these boys. What was perhaps even worse was the fact Chunky suffered for days after he was dumped – literally left for dead on his own to wander next to a fast road.”
And even though he was less than a year old, Chunky now found himself teetering at death’s door. “It is a miracle he survived,” Doe added in her Facebook statement. “I will never forget how terrified and depressed he was when I first saw him. The injuries were so severe that despite the fantastic veterinary care and medication he was on, the medication was unable to numb all of the pain, and he suffered for at least six days according to veterinary experts.”
Meanwhile, the four teenagers responsible for Chunky’s suffering later pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges at Folkestone Youth Court. Their punishment included a five-year prohibition on keeping animals, a 12-month referral order and a fine of almost $2,500 each. In addition, the father of one of the boys had to pay about $7,000.
Inspector Doe, for her part, also expressed her disgust with the culprits in her statement. “The whole thing sends shivers down my spine,” she added. “The defendants may have been young and confessed to being under the influence of drugs, but the cruelty they inflicted on this poor dog was extreme, barbaric and inexcusable.” The four defendants cannot be publicly named due to their ages: they were 15 and 16 at the time of the attack.
In the meantime, though, Chunky made an incredible recovery and returned home to his owners. “Thankfully he has now been restored to health and returned to his loving owners,” Doe concluded. “Though I fear he will always be timid and nervous as a result of his ordeal, and imagine the owners will never quite be able to come to terms with what was senseless and needlessly inflicted on their beautiful family pet.”
However, Chunky’s ordeal understandably still troubled his owners, even after all suspects had been brought to justice. “We didn’t want it to be true when we first heard,” Bonnie-Lee told BuzzFeed in 2016. “It’s hard to think about it, it really angers us to know someone can… inflict pain on such [an] innocent animal.”
And Chunky’s suffering shocked many more people than the Fittall sisters. For example, after reading about the event, Maxine Berry was spurred on to action. In her opinion, the punishment set out for the guilty teenagers had not been enough.
And as a result, Berry then set up a petition on Change.org campaigning for greater punishments for animal abusers. Writing on the page, she explained, “As an animal lover, who once owned a dog just like Chunky, I found this story highly upsetting. What shocked me is that these abusers and others like them will be able to own an animal again one day.”
The petition called for “anyone who abuses animals, regardless of their age, [to] be placed on an Animal Cruelty Register which would follow them for life.” It continued, “A five-year ban is not sufficient – it is hard to implement in practice, and why do we assume abusers’ attitudes will have changed after a few years?”
Berry entitled the online call to action “Justice for Chunky.” And evidently many agreed with its words: by March 2016, in fact, over half a million people had signed the petition. When Berry receives one million supporters, she will deliver her appeal to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
What’s more, word about the petition soon reached the Fittall sisters. Moved, they decided to reach out to Berry and join forces in their fight against animal cruelty. Berry agreed, and the animal rights activists promised to stay in touch.
Then in March 2016 Berry and the Fittall sisters delivered the petition to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in London. It was a milestone in Berry’s campaign that she would go on to describe as “emotional.” Additionally, she would tell BuzzFeed, “I hope we can do something for animals in the future.”
Upon receiving Chunky’s petition, meanwhile, a DEFRA spokesperson responded, “We are a nation of animal lovers with the highest welfare standards in the world and anyone who owns or keeps animals is responsible for their welfare. Under the Animal Welfare Act anyone who is cruel to an animal, or does not provide for its welfare needs, may be banned from owning them in future, given an unlimited fine and face a prison sentence.”
Currently, however, there’s been no budge in British animal abuse laws yet. But perhaps Berry and the Fittalls will influence some change through their online campaign. After all, the people who terrorized little Chunky will soon be eligible to own their own pets. And that’s incentive enough for Chunky’s owners and supporters to keep up their efforts.