The RSPCA has said it will be nominating those involved in the rescue of a dog – trapped down a culvert in Black Carr Woods in Pudsey for two days – for an animal welfare award.
As reported by WLD, two-year-old English bull terrier Martha disappeared inside the drainage tunnel in the woods while out on a walk with her owner Paul Millicent at about 4.30pm on Friday (17 March).
She was eventually brought to the surface at about 9.30am on Sunday – more than 40 hours later – after being located 65 feet down by thermal imaging and she was dug out by an excavator which worked through the night to reach her.
Dehydrated, with a few minor cuts and scratches, she’s now recovering at her home with Paul Millicent and his wife Susan, who spent most of the time in the woods anxiously waiting for news as the rescue operation progressed.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service had initially been out on Friday night but were unable to reach Martha and the RSPCA was asked to go the following morning.
Animal rescue officer Rebecca Goulding assessed the situation and contacted the local council, whose emergency planning department gave the go ahead for digging to start. The RSPCA officer then arranged for Yorkshire Water to attend the scene and one of their thermal imaging cameras successfully located Martha about 15 metres (49 feet) down.
Further calls and enquiries were made by the RSPCA and local drainage firm Dr Drainage agreed to help, hiring an excavator to help bring the dog to safety.
Rebecca, who was helped by her colleagues, animal rescue officer Kris Walker and inspector Taylor, stayed at the scene with Martha’s owners until about 1am on Saturday night.
She said: “It was the longest and most complex operation I have ever been involved in and it was heartwarming to see so many different organisations working together, totally focused on rescuing this little dog.
“At first the Yorkshire Water teams used rods to try and reach her but because a bit of the pipe had broken further down the tunnel they were unable to get the equipment past that point and it was then I realised she would probably have to be dug out.
“She’d moved further along the pipe, but couldn’t turn around, and the excavator had to dig down about 20 metres in the end to reach her.
“We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved, especially Yorkshire Water who attended with their specialist imaging equipment, as well as the staff from Dr Drainage who carried on excavating throughout the night, James Hemingway of WCG Environmental Services and building contractor Karl Houchen.
“We’d also like to recognise the efforts of the fire service who were the first organisation on the scene and the local authority who very promptly gave us permission to dig on their land. It was a long and complex operation but no-one gave up, it was an amazing team effort.”
Mr Millicent, who lives locally, said he feared the worst when the fire brigade were unable to reach Martha. “We’ve been walking our dogs here for about 30 years and nothing like this has ever happened before,” he said. “She just didn’t re-appear and what was supposed to be a three-mile, hour-long walk turned into a two-day rescue operation.”
“I sat there and thought, what are we going to do? On Saturday morning I felt there was no hope but Rebecca started ringing around and it was her positivity and determination to get Martha home that lifted us and made things start to happen. We’re amazed by everyone’s efforts, it really does reaffirm your faith in humanity.
“Martha is oblivious to it all of course but she really is one very lucky dog. Knowing her as we do she’s unlikely to learn from her mistakes though and she’ll be off for another look down the tunnel, so we’ll be keeping her on a lead or maybe avoiding the woods although for the time being.”