A skinned cat and a collapsed lizard – some of the call outs received by the RSPCA

Scary scorpion
Scary scorpion

The RSPCA lifts spirits on Blue Monday with funniest calls of 2018.

On what is thought to be the most depressing day of the year, the charity reveals some of the most entertaining - and unusual - requests for help…

If everyone is feeling a little blue today then it might be because it is - allegedly - the most depressing day of the year.

Monday (January 21) is claimed to be the worst of the year due to the weather, struggling finances after Christmas and low motivation levels. But, for the RSPCA, it’s business as usual no matter the weather or date.

So, to bring everyone a little joy on this rather blue day, the animal welfare charity is revealing some of its most entertaining calls from the last year...

Sting in its tail

Members of the public in Grantham, Lincolnshire, were extremely concerned when they spotted a bright red scorpion sitting on the pavement in a residential street. RSPCA animal collection officer (ACO) Paula Jones responded to a call for help on 22 March and arrived to find the callers had cordoned off the area with cones and were trying to keep the public a safe distance away. ACO Jones said: “Some types of scorpions are highly venomous making them potentially very dangerous. The callers were really concerned about the public’s safety so they used cones to cordon off the area and stood out in the street for two hours to ensure no one went near it.” But when she arrived, ACO Jones quickly realised the scorpion was a fake rubber toy! “Cecil the scorpion is now my van buddy and keeps me company on the road!” she added.

Swan dive

RSPCA officers were really concerned after receiving reports of a beheaded swan in Warrington, Cheshire. An upset woman contacted the charity on 22 February after spotting the bird laid out on the gravel at Europa Boulevard in Westbrook. Inspector Claire Fisher went to the scene. “The woman called us and said the bird was collapsed with the neck stretched out. I met the site manager on Gemini Business Park and we soon realised no veterinary treatment would be necessary - as the bird was a plastic model! He arranged some emergency treatment for the beheaded statue - some silicone and a screw or two - before returning her to her mate! We all had a laugh about this one and, to be honest, were just relieved there wasn’t a swan that had suffered an awful death.”

What a hoot!

RSPCA officers and firefighters were called to Thornton le Dale in North Yorkshire in August when a member of the public spotted an owl fledgling trapped on a roof. ACO Leanne Honess-Heather said: “They called and said they’d seen the bird move slightly but were concerned as it had been in the same spot for two days.” She went to look and was joined by firefighters from Pickering Fire Station. A firefighter climbed up to rescue the bird - which turned out to be a fluffy, heart-shaped grey cushion. “There were laughs all round but we were all relieved there wasn’t a sick animal,” she added. “Goodness knows how that got up there! It turned out the white care label was blowing in the wind and that’s what the caller had seen moving.”

Cat or hat?

RSPCA officers thought they were dealing with something very scary and sinister when they received reports of a skinned cat dumped in a front garden in Stoke Newington, London, on 5 September. RSPCA inspector Kate Ford attended the scene after members of the public reported the grisly find to the animal welfare charity and police. “When I arrived, the body of the ‘cat’ had been covered with a towel,” she said. “We were told it was just the cat’s fur coat that had been left and the animal had no head. This wasn’t surprising when I arrived and found it wasn’t a cat at all - but a fur hat! I was very relieved it wasn’t the dark case I was expecting to turn up to.”

Playtime?!

An RSPCA officer rushed to a home in Hackney, London, to help a collapsed lizard - and arrived to find a chewed dog’s toy! ACO David Eckworth was called on 11 September concerned for the welfare of a lizard that was curled up in her garden. He said: “The call came in saying the lizard was unresponsive and was curled in a ball. But when I attended the address and ventured into the garden to locate the poorly reptile - I found a half-eaten dog’s chew toy of an elephant! “It was quite entertaining but I think the woman was a little embarrassed.”

Dog on a hot tin roof

“There’s a dog on the roof - it may be dead” - is a call any RSPCA inspector would dread. But thankfully Inspector Nigel Duguid came away from what could have been a distressing and serious call - with a smile on his face. The dog the caller had spotted on top of a flat roof of the Elim Pentecostal Church on Dalton Road in Port Talbot was in fact a toy. Inspector Duguid said: “I must admit it was such a relief - as I had been preparing myself for what could have been an extremely distressing and difficult job, and then I realised that it wasn’t a dog at all! From a distance it was difficult to see what was on the roof. It is good to know that there are people out there who are looking out for animals, as our caller had no idea that it wasn’t a real dog. We get calls to all sorts of things - all animals of all shapes and sizes and species - but in my 37 years as an RSPCA inspector I have never been called to rescue a cuddly toy before!”

Should have gone to Specsavers

The RSPCA is often called to help cats stuck up trees. ACO Rachel Edwards was extremely worried when she heard about a cat stuck 80ft up a tree in Ashendon, near Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire. She rushed over on 28 November and, using her binoculars, soon spotted the stricken puss at the top of a branch. “The caller was very worried because the cat was swinging from side to side in high winds on a very long, high branch,” she said. “But once I was able to look through binoculars and spot the ‘cat’ myself it was clear to see that it was, in fact, a rather podgy squirrel! He was perfectly happy jumping from branch to branch!”

Bird brained

RSPCA Inspector Claire Little was prepared to rush a seriously injured bird to local vets when she attended a call on 29 December to a swan who had crash-landed in a car park. She went to the scene in Thornton le Dale, North Yorkshire, but struggled to find the injured bird. “Police contacted us as they were receiving lots of reports of the swan needing help. The caller had told them the bird was not attempting to move and wasn’t scared by traffic or people walking by,” she said. “It was said to be in a busy car park so I scoured the scene and looked under cars. But all I could find were five decorative, wooden swans being used as Christmas decorations in the beck!”

A bird or not a bird - that is the question

RSPCA ACO Jenny Preston had a day out at the seaside on 29 December when she was called to help a trapped bird on Southsea Pier in Hampshire. “We were called by a member of the public who was concerned about a bird who was caught by the foot in a flag pole on the roof of the pier,” she said. “We were told the bird was thrashing around, trying to escape, but was stuck around 30ft high. I rushed down there and was expecting to have to call for back-up to help with the rescue at height - but soon realised we wouldn’t need to call in the cavalry, as it was a kite used to scare birds, not an actual bird! I did have a chuckle to myself about the irony.”

Laugh-out-loud

Assistant director of the RSPCA Inspectorate Dermot Murphy says: “Every day is different at the RSPCA and our officers are used to responding to heartbreaking calls, taking on hair-raising rescues and, from time-to-time, dealing with laugh-out-loud situations. From stuffed toys to decorative models, our officers have helped them all!

“While we all enjoy a giggle at this time of year, there is a serious message here too. Every year we’re under more and more pressure to help animals who desperately need us. Everyone who called us had genuine concerns that there was an animal in distress and we rely on public to be our eyes an ears and let us know when they fear an animal is suffering. Perhaps these calls are just a reminder to maybe take a closer look before picking up the phone! However, thankfully these mishaps are few and far between and we would like to thank everyone who takes the time to report suffering to us and helps us make the world a kinder place for animals.”

The RSPCA is funded by public donations and has less than 500 frontline staff working across England & Wales. To help the RSPCA rescue more animals, please visit: www.rspca.org.uk/give.