It sounds like the recipe for a Halloween potion...
In fact a snake, a bat, a goose and a hawk are among the weird and wonderful mind-boggling menagerie of 233 animals rescued by South Yorkshire firefighters over the last three years.
The snake was rescued after slithering inside a cavity wall, while a bull was helped from a dyke and a kitten had to be cut free after getting stuck fast in a sewerage pipe.
Some 44 horses and 32 cats have also been rescued since 2011 – as well as 70 dogs, including 18-month-old bull mastiff Tyson who almost bled to death after being impaled on rusty railings in Parson Cross, Sheffield, a year ago.
Two years ago firefighters also rushed to the rescue of border terrier Hugo, who fell 10ft off the edge of a footpath in Warmsworth, Doncaster. Crews plucked him from the side of a cliff using a 10m ladder. The figures have been released by fire chiefs to demonstrate the sheer variety of incidents – not just blazes – firefighters are called out to deal with.
The rescues form part of 1,400 ‘special service’ incidents attended by the fire service every year, including road collisions, floods and lift rescues.
Fire chiefs say animal rescues are an established part of their work, and valued by residents, preventing the public getting into danger by attempting rescues themselves. But officers also question which other agency could step in to help if fire service resources were no longer available for animal rescues as a result of budget cuts.
South Yorkshire’s head of emergency response, Steve Helps, said: “Animal rescues are often among the most unusual incidents our firefighters attend, and there is no doubt work like this is greatly valued by local people. But we’re highlighting the number of animal rescues we attend because, at a time of severe cuts to our Government funding, we question which other agency could step in.
“Our concern is also that people sometimes see an animal in distress and automatically dial 999, when there are other agencies, including charities like the RSPCA and more local groups, who might be better placed to help.”
Among the animal rescues so far this year has been that of six-year-old grey stallion Romeo, retrieved from a steep riverbank near Smithies Lane, Barnsley, in March.
Firefighters spent two hours digging through the riverbank to create an escape route for Romeo – who was eventually led to safety using harnesses, apparently none the worse for his ordeal. Cudworth, Edlington, Aston Park and Tankersley fire crews all joined together to perform the rescue.
Station manager Simon Dillon remembered: “It wasn’t easy at all, and our firefighters worked extremely hard to dig away the bank. Large tree roots made it really difficult, but we got there in the end.
“Once out, Romeo trotted over to his owner and let out a neigh of thanks to the crews.”
For animal welfare advice, and for tips on what to do if a wild animal is found in distress, log on to www.rscpa.org.uk