Firefighters had to rescue ​almost two of Dorset and Wiltshire’s hapless pets from rivers, trees and other sticky situations every week last year.

National Fire Chiefs Council guidance says crews must be equipped to deal with incidents involving animals in peril, to prevent members of the public putting their lives at risk to save their pets.

Home Office figures show the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service came to the aid of pets 97 times in 2018-19​ – an average of ​1.9 rescues per week.

They made up 48% of the 203 animal assistance callouts crews attended over the year, with the remainder attributed to wild animals (30%) and livestock (22%).

Fire crews across England carried out almost 5,000 animal rescues over the same period, more than half of them involving pets.

Dorset and Wiltshire’s firefighters were most commonly needed to rescue pets from height, such as up trees or on roofs, with crews attending 46 incidents during the year.

The next most common predicament involved ​pets wedged in tight spots or entangled, such as in fences or drain covers, accounting for 31 callouts. While fire and rescue services encourage people concerned about an animal’s welfare to contact the RSPCA first, to avoid calling crews out unnecessarily, the animal rescue charity says the assistance of firefighters is a vital help to their officers.

A spokeswoman said: “We work closely with fire and rescue services across England and Wales and are incredibly grateful to them for support helping us rescue animals from tricky situations, as well as carrying out their own animal rescues. Unfortunately there are many times where it simply isn’t safe for us to rescue animals, such as from heights or if specialist equipment and expertise are required, so collaborative working is vital in these situations to save animals. In these circumstances, we will sometimes request the help of firefighters but it’s up to them if they attend, and emergencies involving people will always take priority.”

In 2018-19, firefighters from the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service attended:

  • 70 animals trapped or entangled
  • 69 rescues from heights
  • 36 water or mud rescues
  • Nine heavy animals in need of lifting
  • Eight creatures retrieved from below ground
  • Five harmed or injured animals
  • Six uncategorised incidents