Britain on red alert as it rains cats and dogs

It is not only humans who have been hit by Britain's worst floods in 60 years — cats, dogs and donkeys are also suffering, prompting a rescue mission on an unprecedented scale.

Britain on red alert as it rains cats and dogs
It is not only humans who have been hit by Britain's worst floods in 60 years — cats, dogs and donkeys are also suffering, prompting a rescue mission on an unprecedented scale.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has sent a third of its inspectors to central and western England, where they are working round the clock to ensure the safety of all creatures great and small.

One of the team, Kirsty Hampton, patrols the flooded plains of Oxford, the swamped university city in central England, to make sure that cows grazing there are not threatened by rising water levels.

This time, she was called out by a concerned onlooker but, standing on a fence and peering over to where they are grazing on an island of grass, she is satisfied they are not at risk.

Hampton, 30, an inspector for over six years, said some of her most challenging operations in the last few days had involved using rubber dingys to rescue greyhounds whose kennels had flooded.

"They were quite scared and needed quite a lot of reassurance, we had to get the manager who they knew to go with them," she said. "But they were really good — I guess they are used to being transported."

The animals with the slowest-witted response to the floods were donkeys, she added.

"The river-bank overflowed and flooded — they fled and they were squidged up by a fence up a slope, perched up top. The owner had to cut the fence and lead them out — they were not happy," she said.

"We had a rope round them and two people behind to pull them along."

RSPCA teams in the worst-hit areas are working with local fire crews to look out for household pets and farm animals, often making sure they have access to clean water amid failing supplies in some parts.

The charity says it has rescued a total of 1,500 animals so far.

"This situation is unprecedented," RSPCA superintendent Tim Wass said.

"There hasn't been a time in living memory when the RSPCA has deployed so many officers to one blighted area. I'm immensely proud of their response."

Hampton said she had found the work exhausting but a pleasant change from the heavy volume of neglect cases she normally deals with.

"It's quite nice. We work on our own generally and it's teamwork and it's nice to do stuff together," she said.

"Everyone likes going out in boats. It's nice to get a positive reception from people."

Back at the RSPCA's makeshift headquarters at Oxford fire station, RSPCA chief inspector Dave Fox said many of the people he had dealt with seemed more concerned for their pets' safety than their own.

One couple proved the adage about Britain being a nation of animal lovers by refusing to leave their house and dog despite professional advice and rising floodwaters.

"They decided they were going to stay put rather than be evacuated," he said. "They had a 14-year-old dog which was deaf and blind.

"Our experience here is that people have taken the right steps to safeguard their pets to the detriment of their own safety in some cases."

Fox, an RSPCA veteran of 15 years, said people might feel closer emotional ties to what is dearest to them at times of stress.

One example was another recent serious English flood — in the south-west English town of Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004 -- to offer an example.

"We went into a property there and, as we walked in, all the furniture was stacked in the corner, there were great mounds of sludge and slurry in there, and right on the top, balancing on a chair, was the cat," he said.

AFP

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Temmuz 2007, 09:52
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