The RSPCA receives one call every 27 seconds and while many are heartbreaking, some do provide some light relief.
The charity’s cruelty line receives more than a million calls a year, but whether it’s a plastic snake stuck in a loft or a trapped bird which turns out to be a dodgy fire alarm, not every call out is quite what it seems.
Assistant director of the RSPCA inspectorate Dermot Murphy says: “We do get some bizarre calls. In one recent case we had a call from someone who was convinced there was a bird stuck in their loft – when the inspector arrived they heard a noise and found a smoke alarm beeping in the sitting room as the battery had gone flat.
“On a more serious note, it’s important to remember that we are facing a huge rise in calls just at a time when our resources are under the most strain. We know that people mean well and most of these calls are not made in malice, and although would like to be able to help everyone, we simply haven’t got the staff to personally investigate each and every issue that the public brings to us. We must prioritise to make sure we get to the animals most in need.”
In 2016, the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line received 1,153,744 calls – which is 3% more than the previous year.
As the RSPCA braces itself for another busy year, frontline inspectors have recounted some of the silliest calls they have received in an effort to discourage time wasters. The charity is also asking callers to please remain patient and, if asked to wait, to hang on particularly if their calls are urgent.
No smoke without fire….
In December an RSPCA officer was asked to help find a bird that was stuck in a homeowner’s loft in Ossett, West Yorkshire. “I went into the lady’s home and we could hear a regular ‘peeping’ noise,” said Animal Collection Officer Alan Farr. “She said she thought it was coming from her roof so we looked and looked. After searching around and unable to find the mystery bird I then went into her front room and found a smoke alarm beeping after the battery had gone flat.”
A very worried woman contacted the RSPCA in November after she spotted a squirrel stuck inside the squirrel-proof bird feeder in her garden, in Manchester. Inspector Vicky Hancox rushed to the scene armed with wire cutters to free the little critter who had squeezed inside the spherical feeder but got himself wedged. Luckily, they managed to free him but he may be off bird seed for a while!
Made of stone…
Animal welfare officer Liz Braidley had a surprise when she responded to a call about an escaped tortoise in a garden in Sheffield in October. “I went into the lady’s garden to try to capture the tortoise and it soon became clear that he wouldn’t be giving me the run-around – as he was made of stone!” she said.
Let’s go fly a kite!
In September, an officer was called to a building in Enfield, London, to help a bird tangled in an aerial. However, once he arrived at the address, it didn’t take long for him to realise that the ‘bird’ was in fact a kite attached to the aerial – to deter wild birds!
A case of mis-snaken identity
Animal welfare officer Carl Hone was called out in December to catch a stray snake that had been found in the loft of a house in Surrey. The caller was so nervous of snakes, they had rushed back down the ladder and shut the hatch door. When AWO Hone arrived with specialist equipment to deal with the exotic animal, he crept up into the loft only to discover that the snake was in fact, a child’s toy.
When RSPCA animal collection officer Tom Goldsmith was called out to a home in Battersea in November, he was pre-warned that a distressed animal was stuck under the floorboards. The homeowner reported that they had no idea what sort of animal it was or how it came to be stuck, but they could hear a ‘yowling’ noise. ACO Goldsmith arrived, ready to search for the distressed animal. But on entering the room, he soon discovered the source of the strange noise… a rose bush scraping on the outside window
Inspector Sarah Mason was concerned when she received a job from the RSPCA control centre in October asking her to visit a stray cat in Leeds that was reported to have an open wound under its tail. But before she could even get to the address, the caller rang back to report: ‘Sorry, it’s actually it’s bum!’
In November, a kind caller reported an owl that had been sitting on a roof in South Humberside for over four days, and though it was able to turn its head occasionally, it appeared unable to move. Inspector Graeme Petty ventured out to the scene to find the owl in question, only to discover that it was plastic!
Must have been mist-hay-ken
Animal welfare officer Richard Durrant was called about a collapsed horse in Leicester; the caller was unable to see from a distance if the horse was still alive but a number of other horses in the field seemed to be keeping away from it. Rushing to the scene, AWO Durrant was preparing to find the poorly horse, but on arriving all he could see was a pile of old hay, wrapped in twine, lying lifeless on the ground!
A game of cat and…
A worried caller alerted the RSPCA about a cat stuck in the cavity wall of a home in Norwich in December, and animal collection officer Antoinette Marie Shearsby was straight onto the case. With no hole in the wall, ACO Shearsby was confused as to how the the cat would have become stuck. That is, until it soon became clear the suspicious noise was coming from a computer game in a nearby bedroom…
RSPCA animal collection officer Lauren Bradshaw rushed to the A54 in Winsford, Cheshire, in September, after reports of a baby crocodile at the side of the road. Despite the snappy response, there was little she could do for the reptile which turned out to be a plastic toy!
The RSPCA is funded by public donations and has less than 500 frontline staff working across the whole of England and Wales dealing with calls and investigations.
To support the RSPCA in it’s vital work rescuing animals, please text HELP to 78866 to give £3 (Texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message).
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