Cost to taxpayer of firefighters rescuing animals in UK

Firefighters rescue a horse from a river

There is an argument that firefighters in the UK should not be involved in rescuing animals. I suspect that not many people subscribe to the argument but there are those that do. The classic incident is a domestic cat stuck in a tree rescued by firefighters, or a cat stuck down a drain. It is interesting to know what this costs to the taxpayer and fortunately we have some information thanks to a request made to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service by the Wigan Observer and Wigan Post. The information relates to the 12 months between November 1, 2019 and October 31, 2020.

Firefighters rescue a horse from a river

Firefighters rescue a horse from a river. Photo: Manchester fire service.

Over that period there were 26 incidents of animal rescue by firefighters. They spent almost 23 hours rescuing animals. The cost was £445 per appliance per hour and so the overall cost was £22,539.25p to participate in 26 animal rescues which works out at about £865 each time they were called out.

It doesn’t look like that much to me but it depends whether you are an animal lover or concerned about animal welfare. The most time-consuming rescue for the Greater Manchester Fire Service took place on August 12 when no less than four crews spent three hours and 11 minutes rescuing a heavy animal. The cost? £5,666.33p.

It cost the taxpayer £504.33p to rescue an American pit bull terrier from a pond near the Wigan fire station. Two fire engines attended and the crews spent 34 minutes rescuing the animal. There was a distinct possibility that the dog could have drowned so the fire crew saved this animal’s life.

Another example was the rescue of a wild animal stuck in a fence. We don’t know what species of animal this was but it took the firefighters seven minutes to free it at a cost of £51.92p. In contrast a farm animal trapped in railings took 54 minutes to rescue costing £400.50p.

I’ve heard that sometimes firefighters refuse to come out to rescue cats from trees, for example. The Manchester Fire service say that they will respond to an animal rescue if there is a risk to human life and by this they mean if somebody may try to rescue the animal themselves which might place them at risk of injury or even death in extreme cases.

Another reason why the firefighters may come out to rescue an animal is if the incident is causing distress to members of the public. If under these circumstances there is no threat to human life the firefighters advise that people contact the RSPCA.