82 dogs removed from couple's home
RSPCA inspector Herchy Boal has seen a lot of things during her 18-year career with the animal welfare charity. But nothing could prepare her for the job she faced on one quiet Sunday morning in April last year.
Now, the unbelievable rescue mission will be broadcast as part of Channel 5's new series of The Dog Rescuers, fronted by Alan Davies.
Inspector Boal was on duty in Birmingham, in the West Midlands, when she was called by police who were investigating the death of a woman.
"The officers asked us for help with around 30 dogs but I was busy dealing with another emergency elsewhere," she explained. "When they called me again a few hours later they were extremely concerned about the conditions they had found the dogs in, claiming they believed there were actually in excess of 40 small breeds.
"When I arrived at the property I found 82 dogs inside. They literally started appearing from everywhere. We would move the washing machine and suddenly there'd be six faces looking at you. It was incredible where they were able to hide.
"The house looked like an earthquake had hit it, everything was higgledy piggledy, it was really chaotic and dirty.
"We called out a vet who said the house was too hazardous and the dogs couldn't stay there, it was filthy and cramped. They were all hiding; barking and snapping at us."
All 82 dogs were removed and taken to the charity's Newbrook Farm Animal Hospital in Birmingham, some had matted coats and fleas, others had burns. Staff worked through the night to check over all of the dogs and ensure they received necessary treatment.
Inspector Boal said: "We didn't finish work until 11am the next day!"
Police launched an investigation after a woman who lived at the property died but, following their enquiries, they established that there were no suspicious circumstances and that she'd died from complications after an accident.
"The woman and her husband, Stephen, had started out with two pet chihuahuas - Blue and Tinkerbell. Unfortunately, they didn't get their dogs neutered and four years later, they had 82 dogs!" Inspector Boal added.
"This was a classic hoarding situation but it was clear the couple had loved their dogs and things had simply got out of hand.
"We worked with Stephen to renovate and clean the home while we cared for the dogs. We returned four of the dogs to him and rehomed the rest.
"Two of the dogs that went back to Stephen had serious behavioural issues and were extremely aggressive and unhappy. We were seriously considering our options with them because they were completely unhandleable. But when we returned them to him they were like different dogs and were so much happier."
The Dog Rescuers - returning to Channel 5 for a sixth series - is airing the story to promote the RSPCA's message to neuter pets in order to avoid unwanted litters.
Inspector Boal added: "This was a really sad case but it was also a really memorable one for me due to the sheer number of dogs involved.
"I really hope we can use this story to make it clear why it's so important to neuter your pets not only to avoid unwanted litters but also to avoid inbreeding which can result in serious health and behaviour problems in puppies."
For more information about neutering, visit the RSPCA website or contact your local animal centre, branch, clinic or animal hospital. To help the RSPCA rescue, rehabilitate and rehome more dogs like Rolo please donate by visiting www.rspca.org.uk/give.