How a subtle tail wag saved neglected dog moments from death

A dreadlocked dog who was so neglected he was almost put down saved his own life by giving a Tasmanian animal carer a small sign.

Brightside Farm Sanctuary’s Emma Haswell told Yahoo News Australia Tylo’s matted hair was the worst she had seen in a small dog breed.

She estimated his dreadlocks were eight to nine inches long and wide, and “covered his whole body and basically dragged along behind him”.

Tylo’s owner had threatened to put him down, so Ms Haswell knew she was his last chance.

“I looked at him and said, ‘Christ I don’t know how I’m going to fix this dog’,” Ms Haswell said.

“His demeanour was shocking – growling, barking, cowering [but then] he wagged his tail at me.”

Tylo on the left and right with his dreadlocked hair at Tasmania's Brightside Farm Sanctuary.
Tylo after he was surrendered to Brightside Farm Sanctuary. Source: Emma Haswell

A second chance at life

To prevent further stress, Tylo was quickly given an anaesthetic by a vet before he was shaved, desexed and vaccinated.

“It’s just hard to comprehend, I don’t understand how you don’t feel ashamed having a dog in that condition,” Ms Haswell said.

A photo of Tylo who is a small dog with his dreadlocks that measured eight to nine inches long.
Tylo's hair had dreadlocks eight to nine inches long. Source: Emma Haswell

She was dismayed the dog had not left his owner’s property in seven years.

“There was one gate where he could peek out into the backyard and that was his only view to the outside world,” Ms Haswell said.

Tylo is now seeing out the freezing Tasmanian winter in a warm jacket and when his temperament improves he will be adopted into a loving family.

Tylo has been shaved and is sitting behind a pile of his hair.
Tylo after receiving a much-needed haircut. Source: Emma Haswell

The concerning ‘trend’ in pets being surrendered

Dr Andrew Byrne, from RSPCA Tasmania, told Yahoo News Australia a lot of people surrendered their dogs because it was difficult to find a rental home allowing pets.

“If we cold get landlords and real estate agencies to accept animals in rental properties we’d see a major difference to the number of animals being surrendered to us,” he said.

“People are really, really sad. They don’t want to give them up, but they’re forced to because they have to move.”

More disturbingly though, Ms Haswell has witnessed what she sees as a ‘trend’ in people surrendering their dogs when they move house.

“It’s almost like they see a new start for themselves and it doesn’t include their own dog,” she said.

Dr Byrne said when Tasmanians leave the state they often surrender their dogs saying: “We’re going to the mainland, bye.”

Brightside Farm Sanctuary's Emma Haswell, from Tasmania, pictured here with Tylo after his matted, dreadlocked hair was shaved.
Brightside Farm Sanctuary's Emma Haswell with Tylo after his matted hair was shaved. Source: Emma Haswell

‘Tails’ of hope at Haswell’s sanctuary

Ms Haswell received about four calls a day from people desperate for her to take their dogs.

But she only says yes to the worst of the worst – dogs that will be put down if she doesn’t intervene.

“We had someone recently surrender six puppies and seven adults, and he said if we didn’t take them he would poison them,” Ms Haswell said.

Her work has left her spending at least $100 a day on dog food for 28 rescues as she prepares them for rehoming.

But it is making a difference in both human and animal lives that motivates her to continue this emotionally exhausting work.

She also revealed the story of a dog who had been adopted by a couple before they split up 18 months later.

The husband “took custody of the dog and gave her away a year later, but told his ex-wife and child it had died”.

It wasn’t until they saw their dog on Ms Haswell’s website that they knew any different.

“The mother and daughter have adopted the dog back after thinking he was dead for five years,” Ms Haswell said.

Donations to Brightside Farm Sanctuary can be made at

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