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‘Gentle old boy’ dog cruelly dumped at Aldi trembling and passed out with cold

Battling through gridlocked Birmingham, we know that every second could be the difference between life and death. A ‘P1” report has come in – a life-threatening emergency – of a dog collapsed and unresponsive in an Aldi car park.

We arrive at Newtown Shopping Centre, where two firemen are cradling the trembling animal on the kerbside.

His eyes are closed as he rests his chin on one of the men’s crossed legs.

RSPCA officer Cara Gibbon checks him out. “He’s an old boy,” she says as she checks for broken bones and lifts his eyelids.

“There are cataracts in both eyes and arthritis in his legs. He can’t stand.

“There are no scuffs on his nails, which there would be if he’d been walking the streets. He’s no runaway.

“Someone’s dumped him here.”

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A firefighter carries the old boy to safety


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

The fireman gently stroking his head, Nick Devlin, says a member of the public flagged the crew down while waiting for the RSPCA to arrive.

“He was unconscious. I rubbed water on his gums and nose, and he opened his eyes and had a little burst of energy. He looked at me and seemed to know he was safe, then fell asleep on my knee.

“I’m just disgusted someone would do that to a gentle dog like this, just because he’s getting old.”

The poor pooch was found in a hedge by West Midlands Fire Service outside Aldi


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

They help Cara lift up the dog and put him in the kennel in her van, where she covers the shivering animal with a blanket.

“He’s so cold and dehydrated,” she says. “They must have abandoned him here last night. We need to get him to the hospital fast.”

We weave through traffic back to the RSPCA’s animal hospital where a team is waiting to take him inside and put him on a drip.

It is the third time Cara and I have rushed a gravely ill animal to the centre on her shift this morning.

She is one of 273 RSPCA inspectors who respond to over 1.2million calls the charity receives a year, coming to the aid of abandoned or injured animals or rescuing them from cruelty.

Dog is handed over to vet at RSPCA centre


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

Its animal hospital in Frankley Green, south of Birmingham, is one of four where vets treat sick or injured animals, perform emergency surgery and offer veterinary services to members of the public who cannot afford private fees.

Our first call-out that morning was to Small Heath Park where a litter-infested lake has been found to contain the toxic bacteria that causes avian botulism.

The disease, occurring in water with little or no oxygen, attacks the nerves of waterfowl leading to paralysis and death if untreated. Cara and colleague Boris Lasserre make regular visits to the lake to rescue ducks, geese and moorhens.

Some can barely lift their heads above the water and would have drowned.

Cara takes swan for treatment


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

They board a dinghy to search for birds showing signs of the disease.

It isn’t long before they spot a Canada goose, its neck drooping to the ground. It makes no attempt to flee as the dinghy gets close and Cara catches it in her net. “It can’t stand up,” she says. “But he seems quite bright, hopefully we’ll be able to save him.”

As we drive back to the hospital, Cara, 28, tells me she had wanted to become an RSPCA animal rescue officer since she was a little girl.

She began working for the charity as a care assistant at 16, while studying animal management, and has been an officer for six years.

A swan from a pond in Shard End is rescued after a fishing hook became stuck in its leg


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

She has seen everything. “The worst case was a Staffordshire bull terrier stabbed in the face and dumped in a wheelie bin. Neighbours heard it whimpering.

“By the time we got there it had passed. We often get cases of owners who shut pets in a room and move out, leaving them to starve to death.

“That really upsets me. You get scratch marks on the door where they try to get out.

“At one house the owner had locked a load of cats in and moved out.

They were so hungry they started eating each other, there were cat skeletons under the bed, it was awful.

“When we opened the bathroom door and found a recently deceased cat the others ran out and started ripping it apart. It really shocked me.”

Cara passes cat to staff at hospital


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

Cara has rescued everything from parrots and peacocks to exotic snakes and even a deaf and blind wallaby that had escaped from a petting zoo.

“Once we got a report of a California kingsnake dumped in a bin. When I opened it the snake went for me, it was furious. I got it into the bag, but it escaped in the van and when I opened the door it started striking at me!”

Cara deals with stricken swans at least once a week. Our next call is to a report of a swan with a broken leg.

We find her hobbling at a lake’s edge, close to a male and cygnet. Boris creeps up and grabs her, and Cara soon finds a fishhook which has pierced through the bird’s ankle bone.

Picking up an abandoned kitten from a home in Birmingham


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

“She must be in real pain,” she says. That’s probably why the male didn’t react, he knew she needed help.

“Fishing hooks and lines are a huge problem. We did a clear-up recently lasting two days and finished with three wheelie bins full of fishing line.” Cara puts the swan in a special bag to restrict its wings and feet and takes her to the van. She will be treated and hopefully released within a week.

The dog dumped in the car park is our next callout. Ten minutes after learning he is comfortable and having lost fluids replaced via a drip, another emergency pings on Cara’s phone.

She’s used to unpredictable situations, but has to read this one twice: Woodpecker with concussion. “I bet it’s a pigeon,” she laughs. “I’ve only picked up a woodpecker once.”

Cara holds woodpecker who flew into a tree before being rescued


Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)

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Sure enough when we arrive at a flat in Tipton, we do find a woodpecker, lying flat on its back in a birdcage. Joyce Coley saw it smack into a tree and fall to the floor, so she took it in.

“I made sure it had enough water and I’ve given it bird food. But I don’t think it’s very well,” she tells us. Cara finds its wing is swollen, another case for the hospital.

She puts it in a bird carrier and we head back. In the van, Cara’s colleague calls after a callout to a squirrel stuck in a bird feeder. The animal was past saving and had to be put down.

“That’s the worst part of my job,” says Cara. “This week I attended a deer run over by a train. Its spine was shattered and it was in a lot of distress.

“I put a cover over its head and it calmed down. In the end it went quite peacefully.”

Another message flashes up – “RTA cat”. We rush to Handsworth to find local residents standing beside a upturned cardboard box.

It is Cara’s most challenging rescue of the day. She peers inside, seeing that the black cat has a smashed jaw, blood on its head and an injured eye.

But the cat hisses and lashes out with its claws. Wearing strong leather cat gloves, Cara coaxes it from under the box before grabbing it and putting it in a cage.

She scans it to see if it has a microchip, but nothing comes up.

The Mirror wants to Cancel Out Cruelty

“He’s feral, no wonder he’s so aggressive. But he’s seriously injured, we need to get him to hospital quickly.”

A waiting team rushes the cat inside. Later a vet says: “He’s sedated, but we’ll fix his jaw and he’ll be fine. Then he’ll go for adoption, somebody will want him.

“It was a nasty accident, but not only have you saved his life, he’ll now find a home too.”

  • The Daily Mirror has teamed up with the RSPCA to Cancel Out Cruelty this summer and campaign to have children across England and Wales taught about animal welfare.
  • Sign our petition at to show your support.

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