Reports of people calling the emergency services to help animals are increasing, according to figures from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Since 2011 to the end of October 2016, almost 600 incidents involving animal rescues were attended by the fire service, with 92 reported in 2014, 101 in 2015, and 111 this year alone.
The data, obtained via a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) by The Hunts Post, also found that domestic animals are most likely to be the reason for calls, with 268 including cats, dogs, and rodents.
More than 200 calls were also taken for livestock, such as pigs, cows, and horses, and 94 for wild animals like deer, game, and exotic breeds.
Group commander Simon Newton, head of operational support, said: “Our crews are trained to respond to animal rescues and have appropriate protective clothing and equipment to assist them.
“We know that people love animals and would risk their own lives to save a family pet or other animal in distress if we didn’t attend. We would much rather we were called than have someone put their own life at risk as we have trained staff with the right equipment.”
Since 2011 to the end of October 2016, an estimated £365,355 has been spent on these incidents, but Mr Newton says that, in most cases, this is not an additional cost to the service.
“The costs provided include an hourly rate for a crew of fire fighters but for much of the time the cost of the fire fighters is not an additional cost, as they would have been at work anyway. There is an additional cost if on-call crews are sent.
“It is more an opportunity cost associated with animal rescues – our fire fighters could be called out half way through a visit to an elderly member of the community, or delivering a talk to schoolchildren, or carrying out operational training. These activities are then disrupted to respond to the call for assistance.”
He added that the fire service prefers to be sent out once attendance has been requested by a vet or RSPCA member already at the scene.
In meantime, he says owners can help by keeping an eye on pets.
“With domestic animals, we would just advise owners to know their pets and take precautions where it would be sensible, such as putting dogs on a lead near frozen lakes or rivers and checking fencing is adequate to prevent animals escaping.”