Animal rescues cost London Fire Brigade (LFB) 202,446 in the past year, it has been revealed.
London fire crews were called to rescue 542 animals – including dogs, foxes and snakes – between July 2015 and June 2016, figures from the service show.
About half of the rescued animals were cats, but the brigade also spent 978 rescuing two hamsters and 1,304 saving four squirrels.
LFB said people should call the RSPCA first for animal rescues.
According to the brigade, it costs 326 per hour to fund a fire engine and crews were called to an animal rescue every 16 hours on average in the past 12 months.
Cost of animal rescues
107 birds cost 40,750
18 foxes cost 7,172
4 squirrels cost 1,304
Pet owners are not charged for animal rescues.
One of the hamsters was stuck in a cavity wall in Mawneys, Havering, and the other was trapped below floorboards in a house in Merton, south west London.
The squirrels were trapped in a bathroom in Streatham Wells in Lambeth, inside the wall of a flat in Bow West, inside a third-floor flat in Canning Town South and in the boiler unit of a flat in Swiss Cottage.
On 5 August firefighters rescued Binky the cat, who gave birth behind a fireplace after falling down a chimney from the roof of a house in Wood Green, north London.
Binky had four kittens, who were named Ron, Chris, Pete and Jim after the firemen who rescued them.
Unusual animal rescues:
A ferret trapped in a lift shaft in Kingston
A snake loose in a flat in Holloway
A tortoise trapped in New Malden
A chicken stuck in a tree in Stockwell
A squirrel trapped in a gutter in Hornchurch
LFB said animal rescues had decreased by 20% in the past five years, but added the figure was still too high.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, said: “If there is a cat up a tree, or an animal stuck anywhere, the first port of call should always be the RSPCA.
“When firefighters are out rescuing animals, they’re not available to attend real emergencies.”
London Fire Brigade costs
animal rescues Jul 15 – Jun 16
total cost of rescues
326 cost to call out fire crew per hour for rescue
Every 16 hours fire crews called out for animal rescue
16,500 typical monthly cost
The service recently ran a campaign called “I’m An Animal, Get Me Out of Here” to encourage Londoners to call the RSPCA when they see an animal in difficulty.
Chief Superintendent of the RSPCA, John Grant, said the service was “always incredibly grateful for any help we receive from the fire service”.