Firefighters rescued two animals a day during 2020 – a big increase on the previous three years, according to new figures from London Fire Brigade.
London’s firefighters attended a total of 755 animal rescues last year – the equivalent of two a day. This is compared with 602 in 2019, 610 in 2018 and 539 in 2017.
As well as a general increase in incidents assisting people’s pets in and out of the home, there was also a spike in calls to help non-domesticated animals in distress such as foxes and birds.
Last year, the highest number of animal-rescue calls were to cats – 337 – but they weren’t all up trees. The curious felines had got themselves into all sorts of predicaments including two kittens trapped in a car bonnet, a cat stuck in a clothes airer and a cat wedged in a drainpipe.
Squirrels, a goat, a sheep and a cow
Calls to birds in trouble made up 214 of the incidents last year, dogs were responsible for 73 and foxes 61. Firefighters also rescued 17 horses and 17 deer, seven squirrels, a goat, a sheep and a cow.
Among the more unusual animal rescue incidents of 2020 were a call to a snake in the kitchen, a hamster stuck behind a cupboard, a trapped parrot and a squirrel caught in a chimney.
The highest number of animal rescues took place during the summer months – with 92 rescues in May, 96 in June, 83 in July and 87 in August.
The Brigade’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Technical Rescue Policy, Dave O’Neill, said: ‘While we can’t give a definite reason for an increase in this type of call, it could be partly due to people spending more time outdoors – going on more walks and doing more exercise during lockdown – who have spotted these animals in distress and called 999.
‘We’re also aware of a spike in people getting pets during the pandemic so this could be another reason for the increase as people spending more time at home are noticing their pets getting into difficulty and calling us sooner.
‘Firefighters love animals too and we are ready, willing and able to assist distressed or injured animals – the last thing we want is for people to put themselves at risk rescuing an animal themselves – but we do encourage people to call the RSPCA in the first instance and we will assist if our specialist equipment is required.
‘A lot of the incidents are large animals in serious distress such as horses stuck in muddy ditches or animals who have got themselves into water – animals which could die if we didn’t attend.
‘As we come into a cold spell, we would like to remind people to avoid icy patches and never let their dogs go onto frozen water.
‘But if your dog does get stuck in water or mud, you must not go in after it – in this case you should call 999 immediately and our crews with specialist equipment will help.’
For more information, go to www.london-fire.gov.uk