Almost 400 animals rescued by Norfolk firefighters, figures reveal

Firefighters have been called to rescue more than 400 animals in Norfolk over the past three years, new figures have revealed.

But bosses at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service have revealed that they intend to review what sort of calls they will deal with in 2012.

Information obtained using the Freedom of Information Act revealed showed that from the start of 2009 to November this year, they helped rescue animals such as cows, horses, dogs and birds 392 times.

While the information provided was sketchy on the details of the animals, it included rescuing domestic pets which were trapped underground and farm animals which were in water.

And some of the rescues, like those involving large animals such as horses trapped in ditches, were extremely complex, with as many as 11 crews needed to rescue the stricken animals.

The service stressed that they only respond to animal rescue at the request of the RSPCA and that emergencies involving people always took priority.

And Roy Harold, assistant chief fire officer for Norfolk, revealed that the forces response to animal rescues was under review.

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He said: 'It goes without saying that we always deal with human life risk ahead of anything else and obviously the vast majority of our emergency response work involves dealing with such incidents as road traffic collisions and fires.

'But the public does look to us for help in a very wide range of emergencies, so there are other occasions where we are called out for incidents that don't directly involve people at risk.

'We know that 'cat stuck up a tree' is a proverbially typical perception of what the fire and rescue service is called to deal with, but in fact we no longer attend such incidents if called by the public; we only respond at the request of the RSPCA, once their officers have assessed the incident and identified that we are the only viable option left to them. Even then, we'll only go if that doesn't impact on other emergency incidents, and we will redirect crews away from the call if a more pressing emergency call comes in.' But he added the policy could change next year, with the force having to make almost �4m worth of savings over three years as part of Norfolk County Council's �135m Big Conversation cuts.

Mr Harold said: 'It is right to say though that we are currently reviewing our response to animal rescues and will take this work forward in the New Year.'

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: 'The RSPCA continues to strive to deliver an effective front line field service in a climate which is ever changing and demanding, both financially and logistically.

'The continued support and assistance received from our local and regional fire and rescue teams, continues to prove to be an extremely valuable asset when conducting animal rescues, ensuring all difficult rescues are achieved swiftly and with minimal stress caused to an injured or trapped animal.

'As a region we remain extremely grateful for this ongoing assistance and thank all serving fire and rescue teams for their hard work and dedication towards animal welfare.'