Charlie’s story, part 1: Starving and injured, this old dog is seized from the brink of death

September 26, 2018

Imagine being so hungry you can barely move. Weak, miserable and aching with every movement, pleading to those around you for help.

This was Charlie’s existence.

Sadly, the majority of Charlie’s life was a struggle. A sweet Staffordshire dog whose eyes said it all. Suffering, suffering and more suffering.

Charlie shortly after seizure

My name is Cheryl Doudle and I have been an inspector at RSPCA South Australia for seven years. Animal cruelty cases are never easy, but some tend to stay with you more than others. Charlie is one of those cases for me.

A call to our cruelty report hotline sparks awful discovery

The first time RSPCA South Australia received a call about Charlie from a concerned member of the public, we arrived at the Sefton Park home to discover two slightly underweight, but reasonably healthy dogs.

We were relieved that it wasn’t one of ‘those’ cases. The cases that sometimes take days to erase the replays from your mind.

A week later, we received a follow up call about the same property. This time the person on the line described another dog, who the caller described as literally skin and bone. If this dog was at the property, he must have been hidden during our first visit.

This time, I decided to arrive unannounced to the home, suspicious but not yet sure of the horror that was inside. Two teenagers inside the property refused to let me in, claiming they didn’t have keys and that they themselves were locked in the house.


I threatened police involvement and, just 10 minutes later, the owner walked up the driveway. Inside the house was Charlie.

Charlie after seizure

‘The most shocking case of emaciation I’ve ever seen’

At first glance, I thought Charlie was a whippet based on how thin he was. His spine and pelvis protruded through a thin layer of skin.

He somehow managed to hobble over to me, frail and fighting to keep his head up. I was shocked to see a dog in this state still alive.

In my seven years on the job, to this day, Charlie is still the most shocking case of emaciation I have ever seen. Not only was there nothing left of him, but his fur had fallen out, suggesting long-term chronic neglect. My heart broke.

Charlie shortly after seizure

The verbally abusive owner refused to surrender Charlie, so I immediately seized him and took him to the emergency vet for what truly was an emergency situation.

Veterinarians couldn’t believe skeletal Charlie was still alive

I had never seen such visible shock on the face of a vet or vet nurse. Ever. The blood seemed to disappear from their faces, eyes wide, barely blinking.

No one could believe that Charlie was still alive.

Upon closer inspection, we discovered Charlie’s nails had grown so long, that four were embedded up to 1cm in his soft nail beds, making it agonising to walk. Poor Charlie’s nail beds oozed with old, unhealed infection.

Charlie's claws

This suggested that he almost never went outside, nor had exercise, as his nails didn’t have the normal wear you would expect from a dog with a well-balanced life. Clearly, Charlie had led a far from happy life.

Charlie quietly let us cut his nails, lacking the energy to make so much as a whimper.

As you can imagine, this malnourished and neglected dog also had fleas, severe dental disease, and a very slow heartbeat. Poor Charlie didn’t have anything going for him … except his fighting spirit, and us.

Round-the-clock care as Charlie grows stronger

It’s impossible to tell just how much longer Charlie would have lasted in this state, but it’s safe to say that his days were numbered.

Without our intervention, his body would have started to shut down, one organ at a time. It would have been an agonising death for poor Charlie.

Immediately, we started the healing process required to give him a chance of happiness in his twilight years. Despite weighing only 6.7 kilos when we first seized him from his neglectful owner, within one week he had gained a whopping 2.1 kilos!

Charlie with veterinarians

Charlie’s ability to gain weight told us that there was no underlying health condition prohibiting weight gain … just significant starvation. Simple and sadistic.

With around-the-clock care from RSPCA South Australia’s veterinary team, we slowly started seeing improvements in Charlie.

Soon enough, much to my delight, it became hard to even recognise him! Charlie, who was once a frail and struggling dog, was now strong and bright-eyed.

Charlie happy after adoption

What happened next?

What happened to Charlie next will absolutely warm your heart … and, of course, we weren’t going to let his former owners off without facing court. Tune in to part two of Charlie’s story to find out.

Remember, it’s only thanks to community donations that we can save animals like Charlie from the brink of death, and give them the medical attention they need. Please donate today to help us help them.

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18 thoughts on “Charlie’s story, part 1: Starving and injured, this old dog is seized from the brink of death”

  1. Janet

    I take my hat off to the dedicated RSPCA inspectors, their dedication, loyalty and love is the only thing that saves these poor innocents like Charlie. It’s a very great pity the court system didn’t follow through with harsher penalties and jail time. Stop being whimps judges and dish out some real punishment to these heartless creeps.


  2. Jan McGuire

    Why that dog? When they had other dogs on the property ? Beats me!
    Oh I wish the court system was harsher.
    Well done RSPCA and the person who phoned in !

  3. Sonya Stanley

    Well anyone with a heart would ban everyone that was involved in the care of all 3 dogs should have the right to own an animal taken away for life. What in the hell is wrong with these Judges. I wonder, are they cruel to there own animals. Otherwise they would care for animals and dogs like Charlie.

  4. Irene Pikusa

    How can we ordinary people thank your wonderful people for savi6theis poor dog from the crue and vile people. I hope that they were prosecuted and given appropriate fines(very doubtful)

  5. Lisa

    This is actually making me feel depressed looking at him.the poor baby I really hope the owner/s got jail time and a huge fine, If not justice wasnt served for him and it’s no point in taking them to court seriously, Maybe the only way for karma is a public beating to the scumbag/s who did this 🙁

  6. Cristeen Wilmott

    OMG Thankyou for saving him💙😥😭How can anyone do this to a beautiful animal?? I have never seen anything so Bad🙁😩 is he for adoption?😁💙😁

  7. Anne

    RSPCA need to hand out very large fines to people who do this to any animal and regardless of the persons situation. I hope all costs for vet care and immunistions etc were paid by the offenders. The human beings that allow this to happen have no empathy,soul or kindness.

  8. Jenny betts

    Our pets are like our babies we love them uncondionally.that broke my many people need to go to jail for the offences as that’s so horrific and the pain that they put them through .I’m so hurt by this.sorry would never ever be good enough.cruel scumbags.go to jail throw away the key

  9. Shirley

    I hope a close eye is kept on the other dogs to prevent the same horrific treatment to them

  10. Robbie

    I certainly hope the two other dogs were seized too! If not, the owner could hurt them in his anger 😭

  11. Angela Usher

    These people need to be named and shamed, hit in the hip pocket, put in prison….that’s a start. The other dogs should be seized and the “owners” never be allowed to “own another dog ever…..what did poor Charlie ever do wrong?
    Our boy Ted was rescued by the wonderful RSPCA ; he’d been left to starve. He’s so wonderful he has an amazing personality with such a capacity to love and he’s a comedian – such a show off : ) We love him to bits. Thank you RSPCA

  12. Maria & Mark

    What can I say this is appalling treatment of our beautiful animals. How can people be so low and mistreat a poor innocent animal who can’t defend itself. Thank you RSPCA for saving this beautiful boy. My partner and I rescued our beautiful boy Koda from Lonsdale in April and we absolutely love him to bits. He brings us so much joy and happiness. He has us in fits of laughter with his cheeky sense of humour. Koda is now so much a part of a loving family and gets to go on long early morning walks with his dad and even loves going on the boat fishing…he’s king of the boat supervising every action on the boat. Great work RSPCA. :):)

  13. Charmaine

    Reduced to tears.

  14. Christine Perry

    The people that had Charlie before he was rescued should be prosecuted severley.
    Why can’t people realise that all animals have feelings too, and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect I have two dogs that are treated in a wonderful way, as all animals should be. To read of the treatment that the wonderful people of RSPCA encounter makes my blood boil. No wonder I prefer animals to people!!!!!

  15. Andrew Kennedy

    The dog’s owner should be locked up and the key thrown away

  16. Kathryn Taylor

    Lock up, name and shame animal abusers. Penalties should be much harsher. Should be prohibited from ever owning an animal ever again! How anyone could watch an animal slowly dying from neglect & starvation is beyond me

  17. Heather

    Absolutely disgraceful treatment of a helpless dog these people deserve the same treatmentband should never be allowed to have pets ever again

  18. Jen Trew

    It beggars belief. My heart breaks for the beautiful animals who are subjected to such incredible suffering at the hands of these soulless scumbags. We have three beautiful, beautiful re-home dogs that we love to pieces. The scum who do this don’t deserve to be alive. I hope you never know a minute of peace ever again.

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