A man was out late on a remote country road in central England when his eyes chanced upon something strange. He had spotted a shadowy figure in the dark cowering behind the gate to a field. The eerie sight froze the man to the spot despite it being summer, but he decided he had to investigate. And when he did, the brave fellow made the most appalling discovery.
It was the evening of August 25, 2017, and the local man had been out late near the market town of Coleshill, near Birmingham in the English West Midlands. Traveling down the rural road to the west of town took the man past some agricultural fields. But, as the local passed the entrance to one particular field, his eyes detected something sinister in the darkness.
As he moved through the still, warm night, the shadowy figure standing silently behind the closed gate sent an instant chill through the man’s body. But rather than hurrying past the unsettling scene, something about the situation made the man curious. Gathering up his courage, the man stepped forward toward the field.
As the inquisitive and intrepid individual squinted his eyes against the black of night, he was taken aback to see two eyes shining back at him through the gate. As the man’s sight adapted further to the darkness beyond, he began to make out a four-legged figure. Then it dawned on the man – the creature that had startled him was a dog.
The immediate question was – of course – what was the poor beast doing out here in the middle of nowhere? The man recognized the dog as a male Staffordshire bull terrier. It appeared that someone had tethered the abandoned animal to the gate, preventing him from moving anywhere. While there was no telling how long the dog had been in the field, the man could plainly see that it was long enough to make the animal terrified.
As a result, the passerby decided to turn good Samaritan. He called the action line for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – more commonly known the world over as the RSPCA. It is one the most famous animal welfare organizations on the planet. The charity has operated in England and Wales since 1824, and its patron is none other than Queen Elizabeth II.
Given its age, it comes as no surprise that the charity is the oldest organization of its kind in the world. Additionally, it is also the largest with more than 1,500 employees. Thanks to the sheer manpower the RSPCA has at its disposal, in 2012 alone its officers were able to investigate in excess of 150,000 animal cruelty cases.
So, bearing this in mind, the man at the field gate near Coleshill didn’t need to think twice about who he should call that night about the distressed dog. The RSPCA quickly dispatched one of its officers to the scene. Inspector Mike Scargill arrived at the field shortly thereafter. And his first observation was that it had been a miracle anyone had spotted the abandoned dog in the first place.
“The field was very secluded and off a very fast road with no footpath,” Scargill later explained in an incident statement to the RSPCA. “So it was very fortunate that the member of public spotted him.” But thankfully someone did, and it was fortunate again that they had summoned the RSPCA. Now that Scargill was on the scene, he could get on with helping the animal.
However, Scargill realized quite quickly that he would have to draw on all his experience to win the dog’s trust. “He was cold, hungry and very scared,” the inspector revealed. As a testament to his kindness and patience, Scargill spent 45 minutes trying to coax the traumatized animal into the RSPCA van. The dog was extremely distrustful and wary of human beings.
“I managed to get him in my van eventually and I took him to our Birmingham Animal Hospital,” Scargill said. “Thankfully he is in overall good health, although he isn’t chipped – so we don’t know where he came from. We just can’t understand why someone would abandon him like this.”
What concerned Scargill most was the effort someone had gone to in order to get rid of the dog. It had been done in such a way that the animal wouldn’t be found before it was too late. He said, “The gate was about 50 yards down a track, and he had been tied specifically to the field side of the gate, indicating to me that whoever tied him there had gone to great lengths to ensure that he wasn’t found.”
Given that someone had seemingly left the dog to die, the RSPCA were very keen indeed to find those responsible. Consequently, the charity appealed to members of the public to come forward with any information they had. It assured potential informants that anyone could speak to the organization confidentially.
In England and Wales, the Animal Welfare Act of 2007 was introduced by the Westminster Parliament to protect the countries’ pets. The act replaced an older set of laws from 1911. The new legislation introduced much tougher punishments and penalties for those found guilty of acting inhumanely to pet animals.
The act meant that those convicted of behaving with neglect or cruelty to pets could face a maximum jail term of 51 weeks. Alternatively, judges can impose fines up to the sum of £20,000 – $27,000. The act also gave the RSPCA wide-ranging powers to intervene in cases of suspected animal negligence, and to issue life-time pet bans to individuals.
When the new laws were mooted, the RSPCA came out in praise of the legislation. Jackie Ballard, the then director general of the organization, said at the time, “The new welfare offense will for the first time protect thousands of animals from enduring serious ongoing neglect each year, by legally obliging owners to care for them properly, something the RSPCA has been campaigning on for many, many years.”
“Every single day RSPCA inspectors have to watch in frustration and sadness as the neglect of numerous animals at risk turns into suffering,” the animal welfare charity boss added. “The Animal Welfare Bill would mean we could act before that suffering actually happens.”
After a vet at the Birmingham Animal Hospital checked him over, the Staffordshire bull terrier was taken to a nearby RSPCA animal center. Staff there would care for him while charity officers investigated his abandonment. And, although no-one at the charity could know what had happened in the dog’s dark past, they could only hope his future would be brighter.
Once the animal cruelty case concludes, it is possible that the RSPCA will put the dog up for adoption. But first, it is likely that the damaged dog will need some rehabilitation to prepare himself for his new life. According to the charity’s website, this process can take months – but however long it takes, it is in the animal’s best interest.
When the Staffordshire bull terrier is ready, the RSPCA will be able to try and find his perfect “forever” home. The organization arranges house visits to ensure hopeful families are suitable to adopt. And, once the process goes ahead, the charity will provide ongoing support to ensure the adoption works out. That way, the animal should never be frightened and alone in a dark field ever again.