A muzzled husky honking the horn of a vehicle he'd been trapped in for days alerted police in London, Ontario in Canada to rescue him. When authorities threw open the back of the delivery truck, they found two more huskies and two cats.
"It was evident that they required medical attention," London police constable Ken Steeves told TODAY.com.
London Humane Society executive director Judy Foster said that the animals had gone without food or water for at least week. Without the honking, the fate of the trapped animals would have been bleak.
"We've received numerous calls from people asking us to find a hero award for this dog," Foster said.
The organization first investigated the case after receiving a complaint about three dogs that weren't being cared for. When they arrived at the downtown apartment complex, they found the owners had already left due to eviction. The trail ran cold. A week later, the police received reports of a husky trapped in a delivery truck, honking the horn. It turned out to be the same animals that had gone missing. The dogs are currently in the Humane Society's care.
The rescued animals include the hero husky, Kiki, a 13-year-old male, along with two Rotty-mix huskies — a male and female between 4 and 5 years old — named Buddy and Six Toes (so named because she has six toes). Two cats were also found together in one crate in the truck.
One of the dogs had nails growing into the palm of its paw, evidence that the animals had gone without proper care for some time, Foster said.
It wasn't clear why the owners abandoned the animals and the truck in the middle of the open-air parking lot in central downtown London.
Photos of the animals were not available as the Humane Society is not releasing any before the trial. Another animal welfare case in Canada was recently thrown out of court by the judge because the rescue organization had released photos in advance to the media.
The owners, a couple, were charged with five counts each of cruelty to animals for animals left in distress, failure to provide care and unsanitary conditions, under section 445.1 of the Canadian criminal code. The charges carry maximum possible fines of $10,000 or an 18-month prison term, or both. The couple also face additional charges from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with a maximum fine of $60,000 and/or two years in jail.
Both charges carry the possibility of a prohibition against future animal ownership.
Before the trial, the animals could be returned to the couple who left them in the truck if the pair pays the Human Society for the cost of care. If they are convicted, the Humane Society would go back and take custody of the animals.
Returning the animals to those who allegedly abused them might leave followers of the case scratch their heads. However, under Canadian law, as is the case in most jurisdictions, animals are considered property, and the accused are innocent until proven guilty.