In 2020, London Fire Brigade responded to the most animal rescue incidents of the last decade, which consumed almost 700 hours of firefighter time and cost £275k.
Cats, wild birds, and foxes drove the increase year on year, due to the twin effects of more animals taken in as pets and less traffic on the road brought on by Covid-19 restrictions.
This resulted in a 14.3% increase in animal rescue costs from 2019.
Cat rescues made up 44% of all animal rescues, at a cost of £106k for the force. Battersea Dogs and Cats, a pet adoption charity, reported a 237% increase in cat adoptions across the capital in March compared to last year.
Rob Young, head of operations at Battersea Home, said, “As many people (…) spend a significant amount of time at home (…), it is only expected that some may be thinking about the companionship a pet could offer.”
Wild birds and foxes rescues cost the LFB £69k and £19k respectively, an increase of 42% and 75% from 2019.
Wildlife started showing up in greater numbers across the capital, as the impact of Covid-19 restrictions left streets empty of pedestrians and vehicles. According to the National Trust, “Fewer people during the peak breeding season of spring has seen wildlife move in and plants thrive in locations that would ordinarily be considered tourist hotspots.”
The London Fire Brigade puts the cost of one hour of firefighters’ time attending an incident, or pump hour, at £346 as of 2020.
While £275k might seem like a considerable sum to spend on animal rescue, it is 0.06% of the force’s £399m budget for 2020/21.
However, the force urges callers to think twice before ringing emergency services for animal rescue cases.
LFB Director of Operations Dave Brown said: “We always are there in an emergency but not all animal rescues need our help. As well as being time consuming, animal rescues cost the taxpayer and I’m sure most people would prefer their money was being spent on training or fire prevention work, than cats up trees.”
If you see an animal in distress, the Fire Brigade advice to first contact the RSPCA online or at 0300 1234 999, who will alert the emergency services if necessary.