A DOG stuck in sofa springs, a cat trapped in a washing machine and a horse wedged in a manhole are just three of the hundreds of animal rescues that have been carried out by firefighters.
Rescues by Cheshire Fire Service have cost taxpayers in the county about £93,600 since 2009, an investigation by the Leader has revealed.
In the last five years fire crews have been called out to 312 incidents, including 78 to help dogs, 75 for horses and 50 for cats.
It costs about £300 every time a fire appliance is called out on a job.
Some of the more bizarre rescues include a dog that had been trapped in settee springs, a cat saved from a washing machine, a horse rescued from a manhole, and a chinchilla plucked from a wall cavity.
A total of 22 cats have been rescued from trees across the county, at a cost of around £6,600.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that in Chester there have been 51 rescues, costing £15,300, while in Ellesmere Port there were 20, racking up a bill of about £6,000.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service boasts two specialist Large Animal Rescue Units, that has routinely proved invaluable in pulling horses and cattle from bogs, slurry pits and flooded fields.
The fourth most commonly saved animals were birds, which accounted for 42 rescues including swans, pigeons, seagulls and ducks, followed by cows in fifth place with 38.
Numbers of animal rescues have remained largely consistent year-on-year, with 61 in 2009/10, 55 in 2010/11, 64 in 2011/12, 68 in 2012/13 and 64 over the last year.
Both the fire service and RSPCA have said it is necessary for firefighters to carry out the rescues, not only to protect the animals but also to prevent untrained members of the public from launching their own rescue bids and risking their lives.
A spokesman for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Firefighters do sometimes attend animal rescues, mainly when called in by the RSPCA or when there is a serious risk people could get injured trying a rescue themselves.
“We’ve two specialist ‘Large Animal Rescue Units’, based in Knutsford and Bollington. The aim of these is to keep firefighters safe when dealing with incidents involving animals such as horses and cattle.
“Large animals, especially those in a distressed state, can be a real threat to the safety of our firefighters, which is why it is so important for us to ensure that we have firefighters specifically trained and equipped to deal effectively with this type of rescue.”
An RSPCA spokesman added: “The RSPCA is always grateful to the fire service in their efforts in dealing with rescues involving animals.
“RSPCA staff are highly trained but sometimes need help due to sheer volume of calls and lack of special equipment, we just cannot carry out all the rescues ourselves.
“Therefore we’re always thankful the fire service is able to attend these rescues and help animals in distress.
“Many fire services welcome these as ‘real life’ training opportunities for their staff and volunteers etc and are happy to help prevent a creature from suffering.”
See full story in the Chester Leader