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RSPCA launches rescue mission in the face of Storm Dennis

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With more than 100 calls over the weekend (15–16 February), the RSPCA’s specialist emergency response teams set about rescuing horses, livestock and wildlife during Storm Dennis. The hard work doesn’t stop there as water levels remain incredibly high, so the team continue to battle the elements this week.

RSPCA inspector Jason Finch, the charity’s national water rescue co-ordinator, said: “I’ve been at the RSPCA for 20 years and have been running the water team for 10, and I‘ve never known anything like this. We’ve been incredibly busy and our amazing staff have been working round-the-clock to help as many animals as possible.

“We’ve had more than 100 jobs tasked through to our specialist team to assess and have had a number of dramatic rescues. In many cases, we’ve been able to give farmers and owners advice on how to keep their animals safe by moving them to higher land and regularly monitoring the water levels. In other cases, we’ve launched boats and water rescue teams to remove animals in serious danger.”

RSPCA animal welfare officer Marie Stevens and specialist equine inspector Rebecca Carter spent Sunday in Hampshire, near Testwood Nature Reserve, where five horses had become stranded in flood water. Marie said: “Members of the public had spotted the horses up to their bellies in water and were concerned as the water levels were rising.

“We worked together to wade into the water constantly checking the levels. It was a high-risk rescue because there were areas so deep we had no choice but to swim. We carefully made our way over to the horses who were, understandably, extremely agitated. We managed to get a headcollar and line on one horse, leading her with the others following closely behind to an area of higher ground that was sheltered by some trees.

“We then set up a line across the deepest section and used this to help the first horse across to safety. Members of the public were extremely helpful and held onto her as we guided the second across.”

The five horses’ owner arrived as the light was beginning to wane, which made for unsafe conditions for the rescue team, and bravely decided to rescue her three remaining horses herself. “We would never recommend owners put themselves in danger to rescue their animals, but we can understand how emotional it is seeing your beloved pets at risk,” Marie added. “We’re just really pleased we could help these horses and that all five were rescued safely.”

In Surrey, officers were called to a flooded field next to the River Wey in Guildford. There, they found a horse trapped in the middle of the flood water, which continued to rise. He was checked on and quickly moved out of the field to safety.

Holm Lacy Road in Herefordshire also received a visit as a number of horses had been trapped in a field near the River Wye, which had burst its banks over the weekend. The horses’ owners were traced – whose home they’d also had to evacuate – and they’re monitoring their herd carefully.

Following the previous weekend’s Storm Ciara, Storm Dennis had an even more profound effect on those living across the UK. With flood and weather warnings spread far and wide, RSPCA officers remain on standby ready to rescue any animal in need – all while keeping up with their day-to-day duties of responding to welfare concerns and taking care of sick, injured and abandoned animals.

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Horse&Rider Magazine May 2020

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