A stuffed tiger, a King Cobra and a plastic chair floating upside down in a river were among the comical items the RSPCA were called out to rescue last year after they were mistaken for animals in distress.
The animal welfare charity, whose inspectors responded to more than 28,000 incidents last year, has revealed the wackiest animal rescues officers were sent out to in 2021.
Among the ‘funniest call-outs’ was a ‘King Cobra’ which turned out to be a toy snake, a ‘squealing’ dog which was in fact a stuffed toy tiger and ‘dead badger’ which was soon found to be the upturned contents of a flower pot.
Other strange call-outs included a trapped swan which turned out to be a plastic chair and a tangled bird in a flag pole which was in fact a plastic bird scarer.
In May last year RSPCA inspector Dale Grant received a call reporting a dog tethered to a canal boat in the Grand Union Canal in Hayes ‘squealing and crying’.
RSPCA inspector Dale Grant received a call reporting a dog tethered to a canal boat in the Grand Union Canal in Hayes but when he arrived to the scene he discovered it was a stuffed toy tiger
On June 23 last year, a RSPCA officer was sent out to a Cumbria garden after a woman believed she had spotted a King Cobra sitting on a chair but the snake was plastic and had come from children in a neighbouring garden
Concerned for its welfare, Mr Grant rushed to the canal in west London to find the ‘dog’ was in fact a stuffed tiger.
Mr Grant said: ‘I was really worried that I could be walking into a dire situation involving a dog in a really dangerous predicament but it turns out I needn’t have worried.
‘The ‘dog’ in question turned out to be a stuffed toy tiger that had been tied onto the bow of the boat!’
On June 23 last year, RSPCA officers were sent out to a Cumbria garden after a woman believed she had spotted a ‘King Cobra’ sitting on a chair in her garden.
Animal rescuer Martyn Fletcher arrived at the property to discover that the snake was plastic and had come from children in a neighbouring garden.
He said: ‘It didn’t take me too long to realise that this King Cobra was the plastic kind – thankfully too, as they are deadly venomous snakes.
‘Obviously we are trained to be able to identify snakes but it is not so obvious to members of the public – so I understand they may have been spooked by the sighting.
‘It appears that the toy had come from children in a neighbouring garden – so the snake has now been returned to its home!’
And in April RSPCA officer Lisa Miller was sent out to Woolwich, south east London, following a call from a woman about a bird tangled in a flag pole.
But when she arrived to the scene she discovered it was not a live bird but a plastic bird scarer.
Ms Miller said: ‘The woman had spotted the bird caught in string and tangled with the flag pole. She said the bird had been trying to fly away but couldn’t free itself.
‘When I arrived at the scene I quickly established that I wouldn’t need to launch a rescue mission; as it was a plastic bird scarer! She was very embarrassed but we had a giggle and I told her she should go to Specsavers!’
And in February RSPPCA officer Graham Hammond rushed to the River Stour in Dorset after a passing motorist informed the animal welfare charity they had seen a swan trapped in the electric fencing.
One RSPCA officer rushed to the River Stour in Dorset after a passing motorist informed the animal welfare charity they had seen a swan trapped in the electric fencing. But when they got to the scene they found it was a plastic chair
In April RSPCA officer Lisa Miller was sent out to Woolwich, south east London, following a call from a woman about a bird tangled in a flag pole but when she arrived to the scene she discovered it was a plastic bird scarer
In January last year RSPCA animal rescue officer Shane Lynn received a call about a duck stuck in the frozen pond but when he arrived he found it was a plastic ornament
However when he arrived at the scene he discovered the ‘swan’ was a white plastic chair floating in the water.
He said: ‘I went out to check on the bird and had prepared to call out the water rescue team for back-up but, before they hit the road, I managed to get closer and get a good look at the ‘bird’ – which turned out to be a white plastic chair floating in the water!’
On January 7 last year, RSPCA animal rescue officer Shane Lynn was very concerned when he had a call come from a woman reporting a duck stuck in the ice.
He said: ‘The caller claimed the bird had been stuck in the frozen pond for two days and hadn’t been able to move.’
Mr Lynn braved the icy conditions to drive over to Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, to help the stricken bird but he soon found it was not a bird at all.
He added: ‘As soon as I arrived and located the pond I realised my help wouldn’t be required as the duck was in fact a plastic ornament!’
Throughout 2021, the RSPCA received 281,390 reports of trapped animals – one of the charity’s busiest ever years.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: ‘No day is ever the same at the RSPCA and we get called to the weird and wonderful as well as the sad. One thing you learn very quickly in this job is to expect the unexpected!
‘While these calls certainly gave us a chuckle there is also an important message here: we’re stretched more and more each year and, while we appreciate that all of these callers were trying to do their best and help what they believed to be an animal in need, we’d urge the public to stop, think and check before asking us for help.
‘We’d hate to send an officer out to rescue a distressed dog that turned out to be a stuffed toy or an abandoned snake that was in fact a plastic toy and miss out on rescuing a real animal in need.’
Earlier this month the charity revealed that officers responded to a total of 58,394 calls from members of the public throughout the whole of December.
There were 1478 reports of abandoned animals – which is up 29 per cent on last year when the teams were called to reports of 1,049 abandoned animals during the same period.
Dermot Murphy, who heads the RSPCA frontline rescue teams, said: ‘We are already seeing abandonments rise month on month and are braced for a surge of abandoned and neglected animals as pet ownership soared during lockdown, with an estimated 3.2m people welcoming pets into their lives last year.’