From my Crossing the headlines column in Dog World (13 April 2016) I reflect on the case of Baby the Bulldog whose abusive owners were let off lightly.
Reading through the newspapers there are many, many times that you literally despair at the depths of depravity mankind can sink to and one story I read last week really made me wonder what on earth has gone wrong with some of our young people today and it seriously makes me fear for the future.
Andrew and Daniel Frankish’s hideous crime only came to light, two years after the offences had been committed, all because of a sim card being discovered on the floor of a supermarket. When the footage contained on the card was played it revealed truly harrowing footage of two brothers systematically torturing their pet Bulldog.
A court was shown the footage of one of the brothers throwing the Bulldog, named Baby, down some stairs before setting upon her, stamping and headbutting the defenceless animal. What made this abominable footage even worse was the fact that poor Baby simply took all the abuse that rained down upon her, without so much as a whimper or even a growl of protest. She seemed completely resigned to her fate and to the fact that no one was ever going to save her.
A number of mobile phone clips – filmed by the younger brother, clearly show Andrew picking up the Bulldog at the top of a steep flight of stairs and then repeatedly throwing her down them. On one occasion he can be seen lifting her high above his head.
RSPCA inspector Gemma Lynch said Baby – who was put down after losing the use of her back legs – “doesn’t make a noise, even when she crashes into the baby gate at the bottom of the stair”. She continued: “Andrew Frankish can be heard saying things like ‘one, two, three…’ before hurling Baby down the stairs… he is quite clearly enjoying himself… laughing and smiling.
“The whole terrible ordeal is clearly for his and his younger brother’s entertainment.”
Further clips show him standing on her neck repeatedly at the bottom of the stairs before slamming her down to the floor with force, again and again.
The fear, the complete terror this poor dog suffered in her last days doesn’t even bear thinking about. Being trapped in that small house with two complete monsters and knowing that there was no way out, no possible escape.
And throughout all of this footage of the most heinous abuse the brothers can be heard laughing hysterically.
The only time Baby makes a sound is when one of the brothers stands on her back with his full weight (and it is the image of this very photograph – because I just couldn’t stomach watching any of the actual footage – I simply cannot get out of mind) before jumping up and down on her.
The younger brother can be heard saying, “see if we can make it scream anymore. We should throw it down the stairs by its ears” before Andrew throws her up against the wall, headbutts her twice and then throws her down the stairs again.
Gemma says that this is the only time Baby makes a noise and then she can be heard crying throughout her terrible ordeal.
However, despite this incontrovertible evidence, Andrew Frankish, 22, and Daniel Frankish, 19, both from Redcar somehow managed to avoid jail despite being convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to the dog.
In Court they pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to Baby by subjecting her to unnecessary physical violence, an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
They were given the derisory ‘sentence’ of 21 weeks in prison, suspended for two years – given a six-month curfew between the hours of 8pm to 6am and ordered to pay £300 costs and banned from keeping animals for life, with no appeal for 20 years. In other words they got off scot-free. What on earth does one have to do in this country to get a proper sentence? What has happened to justice? And what on earth has happened to our youngsters?
In the very same week that this dreadful case hit the papers there was a report from Oldham of a group of children who had to be stopped from gouging out a cat’s eye. And, over in Melbourne, a group of youngsters had to be stopped from kicking a beaten and bloodied penguin to death. It seems hardly a day goes by without some horrific report of youngsters committing cruelty to animals. I’ve had firsthand experience of this myself when I witnessed a group of children, aged from ten to 12, moving something into a busy road and then retiring a short distance away and then returning to the same spot once a car had passed. I approached and with horror quickly realised that they were manoeuvring a defenceless hedgehog into a position that would see it crushed beneath the wheels of a passing vehicle. This was being filmed as some kind of entertainment for them.
Of course animal cruelty isn’t solely confined to youngsters but one has to wonder if the rise of stories of truly appalling, sadistic crime against defenceless animals by those under 25 has something to do with so many children nowadays – isolated in bedrooms gaming or on social media for hours upon end – having absolutely no contact with pets or nature. And without that valuable contact there simply isn’t that necessary growth of compassion and empathy for other living things.
I don’t believe poverty is to blame although I’m sure there will be a queue of hand-wringing apologists who will link this particular case to abuse/poverty these young men possibly suffered. Nonsense. I grew up in a deprived area and despite not having much most of the people who lived around me literally showered their pets with love. I was also raised by an abusive alcoholic father yet I would never ever dream of harming any animal and I know I’m not alone. Caring for my birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and of course my beloved dogs gave me an escape route. They literally saved me. Many of us have grown up in far from perfect homes and had far from perfect childhoods yet we cherish our pets and wildlife. Despite difficult starts we somehow all managed to grow into decent, compassionate human beings.
The bottom line is there is no possible excuse for this kind of behaviour and in a civilised society this kind of abuse cannot be tolerated. Again and again we hear about calls for tougher regulations and ‘overhauls for animal welfare laws’ being trumpeted by the likes of the RSPCA yet that all seems like so much hot air for just as regularly we hear about cases like the Frankish brothers where justice most definitely isn’t seen to be done.
This is exactly where the RSPCA should be directing its funds, time and its influence (and in doing so maybe it could possibly win back the many thousands of one time loyal supporters who have turned away from it in recent times). After all we’ve witnessed just how tenacious the RSPCA can be when they want to be… one only has to think of Richard and Samantha Byrne’s 15-month legal ordeal with the RSPCA after the charity put down their 16-year-old cat for having matted fur. Show some grit and determination and drag the Frankish brothers back to court.
Until then, there is something we can all do; for once we don’t have to sit at home feeling helpless. Each one of us can register our disgust at the leniency of this sentencing by signing a petition (at the time of writing nearly 450,000 people have already done so) to David Cameron to force him to look into this case and get someone to reconsider the overly lenient sentencing. A line has to be drawn in the sand. For all our sakes the Frankish brothers have to be made an example of. Don’t let this brave little Bulldog’s death be in vain; if you’ve been as moved, and made angry as I have by this story, then sign it for Baby.