He saw death coming and he didn't blink.
George Bengal, director of Humane Law Enforcement for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), died Saturday evening after battling cancer. He was 69.
But after his diagnosis, knowing he had no chance of recovery, Bengal chose to keep working and implored the public to continue supporting the PSPCA, which is 100 percent donor-funded.
His last wish, he said, was to see the PSPCA, which he saw reduce its operations due to budget cuts during his two decades of service, continue protecting animals.
"The job can really get emotional when you see how some of these people can abuse these animals out here," Bengal said during an interview in early May. "When you’re dealing with some of these issues, you’re wondering, 'What makes these people do this? What are they thinking to do something with a defenseless animal that can't fight back?' … It's just a form of insanity."
Animal cruelty is often seen as a psychological indicator that the person responsible will go on to commit similar or worse crimes against other humans, Bengal said.
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He pointed out that in 2016, the FBI began to including animal cruelty cases in their criminal database.
"We do [8,000] to 10,000 cases a year and it never seems to diminish," Bengal said in May. "You never get ahead of the game. It's an ongoing problem."
Bengal died at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Carole, and daughter Lisa at his bedside, the PSPCA said.
Bengal served in Vietnam and worked in the Philadelphia Police Department before retiring and joining the PSPCA, where he spent the last 20 years, serving as director of Humane Law Enforcement since 2007.
Bengal is crediting with building the Humane Law Enforcement program at the PSPCA, as well as at the Delco SPCA (now Providence Animal Center) and the Women's Humane Society.
He was diagnosed with Stage IV peritoneal mesothelioma after noticing a swelling in his abdomen while exercising earlier this year, the PSPCA said, a cancer which has a gestation period of as much as 50 years. Despite two rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer continued to spread.
"A man who had never taken a vacation, who was in otherwise admirable health, had been struck by a horrific disease that would take his life in a matter of months," the PSPCA wrote in Bengal's obituary.
Nonetheless, Bengal continued to work in his final weeks and to reach out to the public for the financial support to keep the PSPCA's operations running.
"George stood with his officers in the bitter cold and sweltering heat, at all hours of the night and day, tracking down the bad guys — those who fought animals for sport, abused animals for enjoyment, left their pets without food and water, or simply left their pets behind," the PSPCA wrote in Bengal's obituary. "He protected animals, punished abusers and, when possible, educated owners whose intentions were good."
PSPCA CEO Jerry Buckley said in a statement, "There will never be another George Bengal, but as he wanted us to, we will carry his mission forward in our efforts to put an end to all animal cruelty.”
In Bengal's honor, the PSPCA created the Bengal Fund to End Animal Cruelty. In lieu of flowers, Bengal's family has asked that donations be made to the fund. To make a donation or learn more, visitpspca.org/bengalfund.