Saving lives of animals costs Fire Service £1.9m
Almost £2 million was spent on nearly 600 animal rescues in the past two years, it has been revealed.
Figures released under Freedom of Information laws reveal that between 2014 and 2016 the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) was called to 590 incidents.
Most of the animals needing rescuing 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 heifer 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.
The overall cost to the service was £1.9m.
In some cases rescue crews attended the scene but the animal had already freed itself; others were false alarms.
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."