After decades of fighting for animals who couldn’t defend themselves, George Bengal is losing what will ultimately be his toughest battle; fortunately, those around him are working to make sure that his legacy lives on.
Bengal, who has helped rescue thousands of animals over the past 20 years, is terminally ill with mesothelioma. During his final weeks, there has been an outpouring of tributes to his lifelong work—and a push to continue his efforts long after he’s gone.
George Bengal started out as an average street cop working as a Philadelphia police officer in major crimes, narcotics, and vice units. It was a move to the police K9 unit, and working with bomb-sniffing dogs that helped him discover his true passion as a dedicated animal advocate.
Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Barbara Paul, who worked with George for many years, describes him as “the most compassionate, dedicated, hard-working and determined” advocate for abused and neglected animals she has ever met.
“He has gone into hoarding situations where the odors were overwhelmingly toxic and the conditions were treacherous in order to rescue neglected and sick animals,” she said. “He has patiently conducted surveillance on suspected dog fighters’ properties in order to help stop the egregious blood sport in Philadelphia.”
As Director of Humane Law Enforcement for Pennsylvania’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 69-year-old Bengal has seen every strain of heartbreaking abuse that animals could endure while in the “care” of careless humans.
”It’s always been a struggle for me,” says Bengal. “These are helpless, defenseless creatures and nobody speaks for them and if it wasn’t for us, nobody would speak for them.”
His team of 10 officers covering 22 counties in Pennsylvania, the “animal cops” are on call 24/7.
They spend hours in all types of elements, saving animals from abusive situations and tracking down bad guys who are typically also involved in drugs, guns, and other criminal activity. Bengal has helped bring hundreds of criminals to justice, punishing those involved in felony animal fighting, those who’ve left their pets without food and water, or simply left their pets behind.
“Arguably, George has probably saved more animal lives than anyone, anywhere, says Gillian Kocher, a rep. for the Pennsylvania SPCA. “He’s built a team that’s followed in his footsteps.”
Back in 2012, Bengal took down one of the biggest dog fighting rings in the city’s history.
“When you walk into the ring and see these two dogs all bloodied up, and you literally are able to go over, pet them, and just put them on a leash and walk them out out of that horrendous situation, it’s like the dog almost knows ‘You rescued me, you got me out of this.’”
Bengal’s public service dates back to the Vietnam War, but his accomplishments fighting for animals includes the creation of humane law enforcement operations at several Philadelphia-area animal organizations, including Women’s Humane Society, Delaware County SPCA, and at the Pennsylvania SPCA, which has continued to grow, despite the lack of any government funding.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to do literally thousands and thousands of rescues out here, but this is not about me, or not about accolades for what I’ve done,” he said. “When you see a good outcome, when the animal survives and can be placed into a new, loving home, that’s the reward at the end. The work has got to continue.”
On a tribute page created for the beloved Animal Cop, one woman named Colleen Gasiorowski wrote:
“Thank you, George, for all that you have done. I remember meeting you at the Women’s Humane Society. You were always so gracious and kind to everyone. When a dog was always tied up and tangled in the backyard of a neighbor, you kindly spoke to the owners about the best care for the dog. I’ve always admired your calm personality and great love of animal.”
The Bengal Fund has been set up with the goal of continuing the work that one city’s most beloved animal advocate started decades ago.
“His work will be carried on by the many people he has inspired, taught, and mentored over the years,” Paul said. “George is a hero to everyone who has had the opportunity to work with him and to the abused and neglected animals of Philadelphia. His light will continue to shine through all of us who love him.”Share this article: