Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Fire Service spent £2m on rescue of 600 animals

By Jonathan Bell

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service spent almost £2million on nearly 600 incidents involving animals in the past two years, it has been revealed.

Figures released under Freedom of Information laws reveal that between 2014 and 2016 local firefighters were called to 590 incidents of animals in need of rescue.

The majority of the animals that needed rescued were cats and dogs. There were also call outs for cattle, sheep, snakes, a hamster, a chinchilla, a sparrow and in one instance a seagull.

Some of the cases involved the rescue of kittens from trees, cats from chimneys, dogs from roofs, cattle from slurry tanks and a hedgehog from a drain. In one case a heffer was freed from a gate by the use of a saw.

The fire service has a number of personnel trained in the specialist rescue of animals.

In a number of cases hydraulic spreaders were used to separate rails to free the animals and one rescue resulted in the fire fighter being scratched.

The over cost to the service was £1.9m. And in some cases fire crews attended the scene and the animal had already freed itself, others were false alarms, but noted as being so with "good intent" or just a case of advice being issued.

A Fire Service spokeswoman said: "Protecting the public is of paramount importance to NIFRS and animals in distress can pose a serious risk to the public or anyone attempting to rescue them. 

"Firefighters would rather members of the public call for assistance than tackle a serious animal rescue themselves as it may result in individuals placing themselves, and others in danger. 

"If that should happen, the financial cost of rescuing the animal, and the would-be rescuer, may well be a lot greater and have more serious long term implications.”

She continued: "NIFRS has two specialist Animal Rescue teams based in Newcastle and Omagh which cover all of Northern Ireland.  These firefighters are specially trained in animal rescue to help reduce the likelihood of injuries and deaths, to members of the public who otherwise may attempt to carry out a rescue themselves."

The BBC reported that across the UK, there were over 15,000 incidents involving animals costing more than £6m.

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