Stolen pets freed from squalid ‘jail’

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Front Page - BY JAMIE LOPEZ jamie.lopez@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @jamie_lopez1

TWO stolen pets were found trapped in a “dog prison” at a West Lan­cashire farm af­ter a fran­tic search.

African mas­tiff Wal­ter and blind St Bernard Betty were taken dur­ing a bur­glary at a Lan­caster sta­bles on No­vem­ber 25, leav­ing owner Deni­qua West­wood dev­as­tated.

A small amount of rid­ing equip­ment was also taken, though thou­sands of pounds worth was left be­hind – leav­ing Deni­qua to be­lieve it was a tar­geted raid.

Deni­qua, who sells horses for a liv­ing, launched a Face­book cam­paign for in­for­ma­tion about the theft which was shared thou­sands of times, and also of­fered a £20,000 re­ward for the their safe re­turn.

Dur­ing the ini­tial ap­peal she said that she be­lieved the dogs must have been drugged to get them off the sta­bles. A large wheel­bar­row, pos­si­bly used to move them, was found near the exit.

Af­ter the ap­peal was launched, two dog walk­ers tipped Deni­qua off that they had seen two dogs on a farm near Ap­p­ley Bridge, lead­ing to the dis­cov­ery of the pets in squalid con­di­tions.

Af­ter driv­ing to the derelict Richard­son’s Farm, off Finch Lane, she found the pets trapped in a tiny space with a small bowl of wa­ter and sur­rounded by their own ex­cre­ment.

Another dog was also cramped into the cold cell – which had been cre­ated by block­ing a small space off with a wooden board – and has now been re­united with its owner.

Plans to de­velop the farm were ap­proved by West Lan­cashire Bor­ough Coun­cil last year, though the build­ings on the site re­main boarded up and dis­used.

Af­ter be­ing re­united with her pets, Deni­qua has now told of her emo­tional jour­ney with son Jack to re­claim them.

She said: “I drove down there and found my­self go­ing down a long de­serted track into a forest­type area. At the bot­tom was a dead end with a big derelict farm all boarded up.

“I jumped out the car and whis­tled, noth­ing. I thought I’d been set up.

“I shouted ‘Wal­ter’ and heard a bark. It was Wal­ter’s bark.

“I jumped the locked-up gates and Wal­ter comes fly­ing out of the back of the build­ing with blind Betty fol­low­ing be­hind. I can­not be­gin to de­scribe what I was feel­ing. I tried to pick Wal­ter up to get him over the gate and couldn’t lift him. With that both dogs winched them­selves un­der the gate and straight into the back of my car.

“I had to re­verse all the way up the tiny lane all the way think­ing some­one was go­ing to come in a minute and take them from me with Jack still in the car. As soon as I got onto the road I was cry­ing tears of unimag­in­able hap­pi­ness.

“My dogs were in my car. I took them home and re­turned back to look for the other miss­ing dog lo­cal to where mine were stolen. I had a good root around and rang the miss­ing dog’s owner where he came to meet me.

“My dogs had been kept in a tiny box­room full of ex­cre­ment with just a bucket of wa­ter. You could see where Wal­ter must have bust the bot­tom door off to get out. Who­ever stole my dogs wanted to keep them alive and well hid­den. It was a to­tal hell­hole in there.’’

Deni­qua added: “The cou­ple who no­ti­fied me of the sight­ing of my dogs will for­ever be in my heart and I owe them a life­time of grat­i­tude.”

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