London Fire Brigade's £3.3M animal rescues

London Fire Brigade has spent more than £3.3 million rescuing animals ranging from cats and dogs, lizards and snakes to even fish in a pond since January 2009.

According to figures released by the London Assembly and the Mayor of London, between January 2009 and February 28, 2023, LFB attended 9,256 incidents involving animals, with costs ranging from £250 to almost £4,000 for an individual rescue.

In total, London Fire Brigade has spent 10,814 hours rescuing animals since January 2009 with an estimated cost of £3,368,404. The Fire Brigade estimates the cost by the number of pump ladders (Fire Engines) they have at the scene and the number of hours it takes to complete the rescue.

One rescue on December 12, 2010 in Enfield required a total of four fire engines to rescue a dog which was stuck in a pond at an estimated cost of £1,040 after a member of the public rang for help on their mobile phone.

One in two animal rescues completed by LFB since 2009 involves a cat - many of which have been stuck up trees. Firefighters have spent 5,158 hours on 4,535 cat calls with a total cost of £1,613,136.

Digging further into the data, LFB attended 611 incidents involving cats stuck up trees, taking a total of 683 hours.

One such emergency call on August 1, 2022, in Downhills Park, Wood Green took three hours to resolve, because a member of the public decided to try and retrieve the cat themselves before getting stuck in tree - bumping up the cost of the rescue to £1,092.

A few weeks earlier, a kitten in Orpington, Kent needed rescue during a botched bid to raid a bird's nest.

In total, the old cliche of firefighters rescuing cats from trees has cost LFB £207,715.

In January 2023, firefighters from three stations attended a scene in Kenley, south London where a goat, named Gandalf, had become stuck on a 35-metre high cliff edge after being separated from the rest of its herd.

According to sub officer Darren Joy, who was at the incident, said: 'The goat had been spotted the day before but we don’t know how long it had been stuck there for. There was no clear way back up for him and it was steep.

'Firefighters worked quickly to assess the situation and our drone team also attended. The drone actually helped distract Gandalf and allowed crews to put a line over the goat and pull him up to safety. Thankfully, he was very well-behaved and came away unhurt.

Birds are number two on the list of animals requiring assistance - including one unfortunate swan who was flying low over the River Thames passing Hampton Court on March 15 when it smashed into a tree on an island in the middle of the stream getting stuck some 40 feet into the air. It took firefighters from Twickenham three hours to extricate the swan from the tree at a cost of £999.

A Harris Hawk in Soho landed on an anti-pigeon spike at an art gallery in January 2015 and was at risk of becoming a permanent exhibit until the local firefighter until managed to save it from its Carravagio-esque fate.

Dogs, it seems are far less accident-prone than cats and birds with only 15 per cent of animal rescue calls relating to man's best friend, yet, since 2009, the LFB has spent £496,303 and 1,630 hours catching canines.

Somewhat appropriately, two dogs have required rescue from the Barkingside area of east London.

On July 6, 2020, firefighters from Kentish Town spent three hours rescuing a baby seagull who was impaled on a spike protecting a former period home which had been converted into flats. A few months earlier, colleagues from Orpington helped a kestrel which had been caught in branches up a tree and was unable to fly off.

In Stratford, East London, a specialist team of firefighter had to rescue a group of ducklings who were in danger in a lock. It took three hours at a cost of £1,038 to bring the small birds to safety.

An injured seagull in Kentish Town who was having problems swimming required the assistance of two fire engines in July 2017, costing £984.

The most expensive five rescues involve a cat, two dogs and two horses - one of which needed rescuing from a swimming pool.

On July 28, 2017, firefighters from Kentish Town were called to a house in Gospel Oak where the RSPCA said a cat had become stuck in the wall space of a home. It took three crews a total of 12 hours to save the cat, costing the taxpayer £3,912.

A foal struggling in the River Lee in Chingford, east London required two crews who spent a total of 12 hours on the scene at a cost of £3,480 in April 2013.

A dog stuck in a lake in Enfield cost £3,276 while a dog stuck in a badger hole in Richmond Park in March 2022 cost £3,168. The horse in a swimming pool in Biggin Hill took two teams 10 hours to rescue and cost an estimated £2,980.

The figures show that firefighters in the capital have rescued eight cows, 158 deer, 10 ferrets, one school of fish, 475 foxes, 4 goats, 18 hamsters, five hedgehogs, nine sheep, 205 horses, 17 rabbits, three lizards, 19 snakes, one tortoise and a surprising 81 squirrels.

A further 377 animals where the details have not been fully recorded cost a further £137,864 to rescue.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: 'Firefighters love animals and we are ready, willing and able to assist distressed or injured animals – the last thing we want is for people to put themselves at risk rescuing an animal themselves – but we do encourage people to call the RSPCA in the first instance and we will assist if our specialist equipment is required.'

Many of the rescues are requested by the RSPCA, especially if their officers do not have the skills or equipment to assist an animal in a potentially life-threatening situation.