Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service reflects on 20 years of Animal Rescue 

Cow being rescued from a pool


02/04/2024 9:12am


Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service

From snakes, swans, and horses to bottle nosed whale, dolphins and badgers, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue service is marking 20 years of helping animals who find themselves in tricky situations.

April 2024 marks the 20th anniversary of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service’s animal rescue advisors.

In 2004 Hampshire firefighters recognised the lack of formal procedures for the rescue of animals and a small team of like-minded firefighters formed an operational unit to provide specialist advice and support for the many animal related incidents dealt with by the Service each year.

Jim Green was one of the founding members of the team and remains in this operational role with the fire service today.

Reflecting on his twenty years with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue as an Animal Rescue Tactical Advisor, Jim said:

“Over the 20 years with this team I have been involved with hundreds of incidents and many successful and rewarding rescues. Animals are intrinsically part of our nation, whether for companionship, sport, working animals, livestock or service animals. When emergencies happen to people, they also happen to animals.

“We have a legal and moral duty of care to people and animals and I am proud of the contribution the Hampshire team have made over the years to our national understanding of this unique rescue type.

“Over the years we have learned so much from relationships forged with veterinary and welfare professionals, helping shape our approach and understanding of the unique challenges associated with the needs of animals of all shapes and sizes in distress.

“By responding to assist animals during an emergency or disaster, we make the management of emergencies safer and provide the best service for our communities, supporting and improving the physical and emotional wellbeing of people and animals.”

Shire horse rescue

There have been some memorable rescues over the years including:

  • Three Shire horses stuck in a bog near Basingstoke. Each weighing nearly a tonne, the simple rescue techniques the team had begun to utilise enabled all three to be rescued unharmed by people power alone.
  • A cow stuck in a swimming pool at Andover after it strayed into someone’s from a nearby field
  • Supporting incidents involving marine mammals including stranded harbour porpoises and a northern bottlenose whale at Hayling Island.
  • A 12-foot Albino Burmese Python, stuck in the lining of a car in Southampton
  • A Badger in a Bathroom in a house in Gosport having entered the house through the cat flap in the early hours of the morning.

badger in a bathroom

Over the last 20 years here have also been many successes and milestones as the team has built on its experience, developed new skills, shared their knowledge and utilised new equipment.

  • Hampshire’s pioneering work led to the development of an animal rescue practitioners forum, part of the National Fire Chiefs Council and the formal development of national protocols and standards.
  • PetPlan Charitable Trust sponsored the first dedicated animal rescue unit, based at Lyndhurst in the New Forest.
  • The BBC promoted the work of the team through their television programme, Real Rescues.
  • HRH The Princess Royal took a keen interest during the launch of the Emergency Services Protocol at Buckingham Palace in 2007, a first step in helping emergency control rooms summon the appropriate skills when animals were in difficulty.

AR vehicle

For information and opportunities about animal rescue training contact 3SFire.

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