By Emma Brennan
Monday, February 11, 2013
TALES of cats being plucked to safety from tall trees and steep roof-tops by firefighters have been well documented.
But what may come as a surprise is that the vast majority of animal rescue missions carried out by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) during the past two years have been to save livestock and wild animals. Figures released to the EADT by the service show that out of 139 animal rescues performed by fire crews in 2011 and 20 12, just 37 were for domestic pets.
Among the most common missions are saving animals from heights, freeing them from mud or water and ‘lifting’ heavy animals. Fire crews have also been called upon to perform ‘underground’ rescues.
SFRS recorded numerous incidences of deer that had to be released from metal railings, and 20 cases of wild birds that had become trapped high up in wires or netting. The more unusual cases included a squirrel stuck in the engine bay of a car in Mildenhall and a horse in Haverhill that became wedged after trying to jump over its stable door.
In most cases, rescue missions are a joint effort between RSPCA officers and the fire service. Once they have been rescued, the charity will usually pay to have any wild animal treated by a vet. According to an RSPCA spokesman, wild animals are given the same priority as domestic pets and livestock. He said: “We often send our inspectors out to deal with situations such as badgers or foxes caught in football netting or stuck in fencing. Any animal that is in need of our help, we would aim to get to as soon as possible. But as we only have about 400 uniformed staff in the UK who often cover vast rural areas and are under great pressures to respond quickly, we are massively grateful for the backing of the fire service.”
He said criticism of the fire service for devoting resources to animal rescues was unfair, adding: “People need to be aware that firefighters are not neglecting other areas of their work to help with animal rescues. They will always prioritise if there’s a fire and in the meantime, the rescue work helps sharpen their training and skills.”
Suffolk’s assistant chief fire officer, Phil Embury, said local people looked to the fire service for help in different emergency situations, including the rescue of domestic and wild animals in distress. He added: “Firefighters are professionally trained in a wide range of rescue skills, including large animal rescue awareness, and they carry extensive rescue equipment. We will always seek to provide humanitarian services and alleviate suffering in animals where resources allow and our crews see this as very much part of their job.”