These are the shocking images which show the horrific condition of a neglected dog that was left locked in a cat carrier in a squalid Belfast terrace – and her remarkable transformation after she was rescued.
Rescuers thought Lola the shih-tzu was dead when they found her caked in dirt, confined in a small cat carrier and with a badly broken leg that had gone untreated for weeks – and ultimately had to be amputated.
Staff from Crosskennan Animal Sanctuary, who helped police officers to recover nine dogs from the filthy inner city Belfast house, said the floor was six inches deep in animal waste and one animal was so far gone she had to be put down.
Gilbert McKnight at Cedar Grove Veterinary Surgery, who treated the dogs, said it was one of the worst animal abuse cases he had ever seen.
Janice Watt from the sanctuary said the dogs were retrieved in June by police officers investigating a separate case, but the owner has only recently signed them over to Crosskennan's care.
Police entered the house and seized the dogs after they were unable to make contact with the person on a number of occasions.
"The place was just six inches deep in dog poo and these dogs were dotted about all over the house. There was no food, no water," Janice said.
"With a couple of exceptions, all the dogs were in a terrible state. Lola was locked inside a cat carrier and we didn't find her for a long time – she looked like a bit of matted blanket.
"Then we noticed a bit of hair poking out and we realised there was a dog in there. She was trying to wag her wee tail but her coat was so badly matted that she couldn't.
"When we took her to Cedar Grove, the vet Gilbert McKnight was appalled.
"Lola's coat was all matted, her leg had been badly broken and left for quite some time. It stuck out at an angle from her body when she was trying to walk. The leg wasn't viable and it just couldn't be saved."
Rescuers were heartbroken by the case of another dog, Sally, who had to be put down.
"She had a really rancid mouth, so much so that her entire mouth was full of pus. Her tongue was hanging out and swollen, her eyes were really badly infected, her ears were full of pus – her entire head was almost one big abscess. She was crawling with fleas and lice," Janice explained.
"Unfortunately Sally had so many problems that she couldn't be saved. Dementia had set in from what she had been through and she was walking in circles.
"She could probably have overcome the physical problems but she was so mentally damaged by what she had been through and that had impacted on her ability and desire to even eat."
The sanctuary is now hoping to find new homes for all the dogs, but Lola has already found a new owner – Debbie, who was her foster carer.
"Lola became very attached to Debbie after her ordeal and her surgery," Janice said.
"I don't think you could prise Lola away from Debbie with a crowbar now," she said.