The curious incident of the hungry dog in the night-time

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The Independent Online

Staff at Battersea Dogs Home were mystified when they arrived at work one morning to find that the kitchen had been raided for an animal version of a midnight feast.

Staff at Battersea Dogs Home were mystified when they arrived at work one morning to find that the kitchen had been raided for an animal version of a midnight feast.

But it was not an isolated incident. It happened again and again, each time with a growing number of dogs running amok on the premises. The doors of their kennels had been mysteriously unlocked.

Baffled staff finally decided that the only way to get to the bottom of the mystery was to set up surveillance cameras in a bid to determine how the dogs were escaping.

The cameras quickly revealed the chief culprit - Red, a resident three-year-old lurcher.

Footage revealed Red methodically setting about freeing himself by using his teeth to release the latch on the outside of his kennel. He thenturned to the more altruistic task of opening the kennels of his neighbouring canines using the same winning dental technique. United, the pack of dogs trotted down the corridor and raided the cupboards of dog biscuits and treats - and toys for a post-prandial play-around.

Yesterday, Battersea staff revealed there may be a happy ending to the mischievous antics of Red. After arriving emaciated four months ago, he can now hope for a better life in a new home after GMTV broadcast the images of him sneaking out of his kennel in the black of night.

"This is particularly pleasing for us because lurchers and greyhounds tend to be more difficult to re-house," said Liz Emeny, spokeswoman for the home. "The perception is that that they require too much exercise to be good domestic pets but in reality they sleep a lot as well."

The great escape from Battersea Dogs Home began when a growing number of dogs were found running around the premises each morning. Becky Blackmore, the kennel manager, described how as many as nine dogs were escaping every night.

"We came in to chaos," she said. "It happened about a dozen times. We would come in to lots of dogs out on their block. They had had lots of food, lots of fun and games, and caused loads of mess. We weren't too sure what was going on."

Infra-red cameras caught Red red-handed. They captured him sticking his muzzle through the bars of his kennel, before using his teeth to press the button which operated the spring-loaded catch to his door.

"It is amazing because lurchers aren't renowned for their intelligence," Ms Blackmore said. "It is amazing that he has worked out how to get out of his own kennel, but then also that he goes and lets all his friends out."

Battersea Dogs Home, which looks after 400 dogs, recently celebrated the release of its longest-term resident, India. The mongrel, who is part Staffordshire bull terrier, had been in care for more than two years.

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