Staff at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in England and Wales are no strangers to dealing with appallingly neglected creatures. But in early June 2018 some of the charitable agency’s officers tended to a dog in such a pitiful state that even they were left reeling by the harrowing experience. The poor pooch had been dumped down a dead-end street in the village of Eye, near Cambridge, in the east of England. A group of teenagers stumbled across the abandoned animal by the roadside before calling for help – and thank goodness they did.
In fact, the poodle-cross – who has since been named Benji – was in such a dire condition that it was difficult even for the RSPCA operatives to positively identify him as a dog. The unfortunate canine’s fur was severely matted together in a disgusting clump. Benji was dangerously dehydrated and unable to move. It was obvious to the animal welfare officers that he had been callously deserted and left to die alone – and the end looked near. Nevertheless, the worst was yet to be uncovered…
Carrie O’Riordan is an RSPCA inspector who works out of the nearby Cambridgeshire town of Peterborough. The officer was on duty at the time of the call on June 13, 2018, and arrived promptly at the scene in Eye. Subsequently, O’Riordan told Sky News that it was the worst case of animal neglect she had ever witnessed a canine suffer. She recalled, “I was truly horrified when I saw Benji, he didn’t even resemble a dog.”
O’Riordan continued, “Apart from the matting, he smelt extremely bad and his fur was coated in feces, urine and fleas.” The sickened RSPCA woman added, “In all my years as an inspector, I have never seen a matted dog as bad as this.” But O’Riordan still found time to praise the young people who had found Benji, and she thanked them for being so kind to the helpless hound.
The Eye teenagers had immediately reported the deserted doggo to the RSPCA before wrapping him in their clothing in an attempt to warm the invalid up. The altruistic youngsters even had the lovely idea of playing soft music to Benji in an attempt to help him relax. And despite knowing that professional assistance was on the way, the teens nonetheless stayed with the dumped dog until the rescue team arrived.
What’s more, the young heroes were not aware of how badly damaged Benji’s little body was underneath his thickly clogged coat. Indeed, they had no idea that they were saving the stricken animal from certain death. O’Riordan said, “I fear he may not have been found had it not been for them, and he could have died a slow and painful death.”
After arriving at the scene, O’Riordan and her RSPCA colleagues took Benji to a veterinarian center in the close-by community of Cromwell. The poorly pooch was immediately put on a drip to replace lost fluids and left to settle for the night. The next morning, the vet in charge issued painkillers to the little patient and sedated him in preparation for the removal of the matted mess that covered his frail frame. But nothing could have prepared the helpers at the Cromwell Veterinary Group for the horror this haircut would reveal.
Following two hours of painstakingly snipping away at Benji’s coat, four teammates at the vet practice had removed some two-and-a-half pounds of matted fur from the seven-year-old poodle-mix. And they were shocked to discover that the poor pupper’s front right paw was missing. It seemed the appendage had been so tightly choked by the massive tangle of hair that Benji’s blood supply had been restricted, causing the little foot to fail and fall off.
Furthermore, a layer of skin had grown over the stump, which suggested that the little guy had faced the trauma of losing his rotten paw some time before. In an interview with the BBC, a spokesman for the Cromwell Veterinary Group confirmed, “It is thought this was the result of the matting which caused the circulation to stop. Without a blood supply, his foot effectively died.”
Our brave little hero is now safe and being nursed back to health at the RSPCA Block Fen facility in March, Cambridgeshire. Recovery staff members there are not sure yet if any long-term damage will require Benji to have the rest of his front leg amputated. But, in the meantime, they are looking after the poodle-mix as best they can and taking his progress one day at a time.
In the days immediately after his rescue, having been so cruelly abused and neglected then left for dead, Benji was understandably terrified and wary of humans. But now, in a secure and safe environment and freed from the clumps of suffocating fur, he is slowly beginning to come out of his shell. Benji now resembles a dog rather than a disgusting mess, and the Block Fen staff are hopeful for his future. One informed the BBC, “He is friendly and sweet.”
And Julie Eastham, practice manager at the Cromwell Veterinary Group, also spoke to the BBC, saying that Benji’s was the worst case of neglect the experienced animal advocate had ever seen. “It is heartbreaking for all our staff to see such a sad case,” Eastham said. “Poor Benji had been suffering for some time.”
Indeed, given that new skin had been given the time to grow over the stump, all the indications were that the affected foot had fallen off months before Benji was finally kicked to the curb in that dead-end street. This meant he would have been in agony and severe distress for a very long time before those teenagers came across the abandoned animal and the RSPCA whisked him away to safety. O’Riordan declared, “The person who let him get [into] a condition like this is truly the lowest of the low, there is just no excuse for it.”
What’s more, the Cambridgeshire inspector is determined to catch the person or persons responsible for the unspeakable cruelty shown to this defenseless animal. Heartrending pictures released by the RSPCA show poor Benji shortly after he was found. The poodle-mix’s hair looks painfully knotted and his little face can barely be seen under a thick fringe of fetid locks.
And photos taken shortly after he had been shaved show a frightened little feller who has clearly suffered a massive amount of mistreatment. His big eyes are wide with fear as the pupper is helped into a standing position by RSPCA staff. Benji’s front right leg is shown dangling pathetically from his body; the limb rendered useless by the dreadful disappearance of the little paw that once supported it. The foot’s absence is a reminder forever of the pain that Benji has been put through.
But the RSPCA is working very hard to find out who was behind Benji’s suffering. It is possible that the pup was in their charge for a long time, as the injuries he endured are doubtless the result of chronic neglect over months or even years. The charity has appealed to anyone with information related to the animal cruelty case to make contact with one of its offices as a matter of urgency.
And RSPCA supporters gave vent to their feelings of revulsion and desire for retribution after they had read about Benji’s terrible story on social media. “That’s made me so upset… I hope to God karma comes to the evil person who allowed this to happen, and they are made to pay the price heavily,” wrote one animal lover on Facebook. Meanwhile, another appealed to followers to find a nice new home for Benji.
Subsequently, one Facebook user posted a picture of her own healthy poodle to compare with the upsetting images of the abandoned animal. The obviously well-cared-for and loved specimen looks fluffy and clean. “This is how poor Benji the poodle should [look],” they wrote in an accompanying caption. But, sadly, it looked nothing like the beleaguered Benji who appeared forlorn and frightened, having lost his fur and his foot to neglect at human hands.
The U.K. Animal Welfare Act, 2006, plays a vital part in legally empowering the RSPCA to enforce warnings or even prosecute those who do not heed their advice regarding domestic animals. In fact, section nine of the legislation puts a “duty of care” fairly and squarely on to the owner of a pet. This holds them responsible for any abuse or neglect caused to their animal.
In 2018 U.K. law introduced longer sentences for perpetrators of animal abuse, increasing the maximum punishment from six months’ to five years’ imprisonment. Charities across Britain are working hard to enforce the message that animal abuse will not be tolerated. And, if he could talk, there is no doubt that Benji would be in full agreement. O’Riordan said, “He must have been so frightened to have been dumped, and I am so pleased the finders showed him such kindness when they found him.”