MECCA ( — A dog that had been tied to Riverside County train tracks by an elderly man last week was saved after a train engineer engaged an emergency braking system.

The Union Pacific Railroad engineer stopped the train around 5 p.m. April 2 after he witnessed a person placing a 10-month-old poodle-terrier mix on the tracks in Mecca just east of 4th Street.

Union Pacific Special Agent Sal Pina responded to the incident, untied the dog and arrested a 78-year-old man.

“It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve seen,” Pina said. “I’ve never seen something like this.”

The man was taken to an Indio field office where he told authorities his family didn’t want the dog and he didn’t know what to do with it.

“After an extensive interview, Agent Pina said that he could not pursue an animal-cruelty case because the man appeared to be confused, or senile and didn’t fully understand what he had done,” John Welsh of the Riverside County Department of Animal Services said in a statement.

The man was released to family members, and the dog, who was nicknamed “Banjo”, was taken to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms where he was examined, treated and bathed.

Anyone interested in adopting Banjo, who is available immediately pending a special application process, can email:

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