Fire crews save cats, dogs and ... an otter?

Much of the town centre was brought to a halt on Saturday as firefighters closed the road to rescue a trapped pigeon. Picture by John Whitehead. (S)
Much of the town centre was brought to a halt on Saturday as firefighters closed the road to rescue a trapped pigeon. Picture by John Whitehead. (S)

What an otter fuss! In the past year, fire crews from Harrogate have rescued three dogs, four cats, two pigeons and a sheep.

But most impressive of all, the Harrogate Advertiser can reveal, they rescued an otter.

Firefighters were called out to the car park of Pets at Home in August last year, said watch manager John Harvey, where they made a most unusual find.

“A man was leaving the car park and he could smell something awful,” said Mr Harvey. “This otter had gotten into his engine compartment.

“It must have climbed inside when he was parked up, to keep warm.”

The car owner had called the RSPCA who turned to Harrogate’s firefighters.

“It did bite a member of the crew,” said Mr Harvey. “It just managed to spin its head around and nip her on the thumb.

“It may have had a bit of fuel on it, but it was none the worse for wear after its ordeal. Unless it got blood poisoning from biting the firefighter.”

Fire crews believe the otter came from the river at Oak Beck, and it was released back into the wild by the RSPCA.

The animal rescue figures were released by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Advertiser.

“We do go to all sorts of animals, earlier this year we had a cow that had fallen down a ditch,” added Mr Harvey. “We’ve been to cows, sheep, parrots.”

In March this year, shoppers in the town centre watched as fire crews fought to save a pigeon which had become trapped in wire on James Street.

“Things have changed over the years and fire services can charge now for animal rescues,” said Mr Harvey. “As a result, cats up trees are a rarity now.

“It’s different if an animal is in distress, then of course we will go and do it. But if a genuine emergency came in, we would have to leave.”