Playful pets and thrill-seeking wildlife kept frontline animal rescuers on their toes last year with their madcap exploits.
From squirrels trapped down toilets to dogs stuck in television cabinets, hardworking RSPCA emergency officers often had to hold back the laughs while saving a menagerie of mischievous creatures great and small.
Whoever said about never working with animals certainly had a point looking at some of the wackiest rescues from the charity’s emergency call-out log for 2018. With more than a million calls coming through to the RSPCA over the last 12 months, often reporting shocking and disturbing acts of cruelty and neglect, these stories reveal there are moments of mirth for the dedicated inspectors and collection teams that safeguard the nation’s pets, wild creatures and livestock.
Here are 10 of the most surprising rescues from last year’s archive:
Yorkshire Terrier puppy Ringo Starr gave RSPCA Inspector Anthony Joynes a hard day’s night when he got his head stuck in a wooden television cabinet in Birkenhead, Merseyside, last March. Despite the owner’s efforts to extract Ringo, the eight-week old pup could not be released and it needed RSPCA Inspector Anthony Joynes and some trusty vegetable oil to ease him free. The inspector explained: “Poor Ringo Starr was very uncomfortable and panicked, but the hole was fairly tight and I wasn’t able to free him at first, so with his owner’s permission we quickly grabbed some vegetable oil from the kitchen to gently rub around his neck to help loosen him, and with some very careful manoeuvring, Ringo’s head slid out of the cabinet and he was free.”
A grey squirrel got into a wee spot of bother when it went exploring in students’ accommodation in Southwark, South London, last May. RSPCA animal collection officer Kirstie Gillard saved the creature by luring it out from a toilet pan with a mop handle before it was dried and released. ACO Gillard said: “I think he must have come into this house through the roof and slipped into the toilet. Fortunately the squirrel wasn’t injured at all and I could release him back into the wild where he belongs.”
A curious fox cub had to be wheedled out of an abandoned car wheel when he went exploring in Leyton, London, last June. RSPCA Inspector Kate Ford answered a worried animal lover’s call to save the cub and was soon putting her kitchen skills to the test. She explained: “The cub was beginning to panic and I knew we needed to work quickly. I tried to ease his head back through the hole, but it just wouldn’t go. He clearly needed some lubrication, so I used some cooking oil, which the animal-loving resident had retrieved from his house, and that did the trick. Happily, the fox was none the worse for his ordeal and soon ran off, hopefully to be reunited with his family.”
What should have been a relaxed breakfast turned into an emergency when an early morning diner discovered a three-foot corn snake in his box of cereal last May. RSPCA animal collection officer Katie Hetherington arrived at the man’s home in Sheffield on the trail of the snake which had subsequently slithered into a dishwasher. After capturing the escaped pet and taking it to a specialist centre, she said: “I think the man was expecting to have Cornflakes for breakfast – not corn snakes. The poor chap was absolutely terrified. I think it was the last thing he expected to find in his kitchen.”
An inquisitive fox ended up becoming a garden feature after getting its head stuck in a trellis. The animal was left teetering precariously on top of a seven-foot high wall at a property in Loughton, Essex, last March. RSPCA Inspector Karl Marston had been called out in perishing cold conditions to collect the fox in the courtyard garden, only for it to bolt and become trapped between the wooden struts. Luckily, this made it easier to catch the animal and release nearby.
A chilly cat looking to escape the cold became an unexpected guest at a hotel in Luton when it got stuck between two automatic doors last March. Staff at the Premier Inn alerted the RSPCA and animal collection officer Kate Wright managed to pull the moggie, nicknamed Lenny, to safety. She said: “I’m not sure whether he was actually trapped or whether he was just trying to find somewhere safe to rest. He was soaking wet and freezing cold and had been trying to find somewhere warm and dry to curl up. Unfortunately, he chose a rather hazardous spot.”
A fruit-stealing badger had to be rescued after clambering up a tree to get at some juicy plums. Somehow, the animal slipped and was left wedged between branches with an injured leg. Inspector Callum Isitt came to the animal’s rescue in Harefield, London, last August. He said: “The badger was in a walled garden full of vegetable plots and fruit trees so it must have been very tempting for him. “I suspect he’d been trying to climb the plum tree to get to the ripe, juicy fruits when he slipped and trapped his front leg in the ‘V’ where the two small branches met about three feet off the ground. He was left dangling there and was obviously in some distress.”
An adventurous muntjac deer was left upside down after managing to clamber on to a garage roof but then falling down between two walls in Bedworth, Warwickshire, last March. RSPCA animal collection officer Adam McConkey used a grasper to save the deer and later release the trapped animal. He explained: “The poor little chap looked very uncomfortable and was probably disoriented. We think he somehow climbed up onto the garage roof, but then lost his footing and fell off the edge. We found him upside-down and stuck tight between the garage wall and the house. It was such a narrow space, he couldn’t move an inch.”
A stray cat looking for a quiet nap sparked an emergency rescue when it became trapped in the mechanism of an electric reclining sofa. RSPCA Inspector Simon Coombs was called out to release the animal in Bristol last January. He explained how the children at the property had pressed a button on the recliner unaware the cat was hiding underneath. He said: “The cat’s tail was obviously resting on the mechanism and, as the spindle started rotating, the fur became trapped. The homeowner had the right tools and set about dismantling the sofa while I helped keep hold of the cat and keep her calm. Luckily, we were able to free her and she was absolutely fine, if a little shaken up.”
A mother goat made a bad example to her watching kid when she got her head stuck between the bars of a metal fence near Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, last May. Animal collection officer Emily Welch responded to the emergency call and managed to free the goat by clearing the soil under the fence. ACO Welch explained: “She was struggling to free herself and she had her kid with her who was also very distressed.”
If you see an animal in distress, call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999