A caged tiger that turned out to be a stuffed toy was among the oddest calls the RSPCA revealed in an annual list of unusual cases.
The animal welfare charity responds to 1.1 million calls and rescues more than 110,000 animals each year, and has revealed some of the baffling things its officers attended to in 2019.
RSPCA inspector Marije Zwager said a concerned caller insisted they’d seen a tiger being kept in a cramped cage in a garden in Exeter.
She said: ‘They were persistent this is what they’d seen and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but soon realised that it wasn’t a tiger at all, it was just a soft toy.
‘He’s called Tiddles the Tiger and shares his home with two male neutered rabbits called Horace and Boris, who have a fantastic home filled with all kinds of enrichment and entertainment to keep them happy and healthy.’
Another caller said they’d managed to snare a brown snake spotted on a wheelie bin in County Durham and trap it in a plastic tub.
But when the RSPCA inspector arrived, it was soon revealed to be a plastic toy.
A second Exeter resident phoned the charity about a ‘lethargic and collapsed’ fox hiding in the undergrowth of a bush.
An officer attended the scene only to realise the ‘fox’ was a taxidermy mount.
Ellie Burt said: ‘He’d clearly been placed under a bush outside of the houses as a prank.
‘After speaking to some of the neighbours, I soon discovered that someone had been moving it around the neighbourhood.’
Another inspector had to hide her exasperation after driving 55 miles to a report of a baby owl trapped on a roof in Shrewsbury, which turned out to be a statue.
Cara Gibbon said: ‘I was really pleased that the little chap didn’t need rescuing but we’d always encourage people to chat to their neighbours and double-check they need our help before calling in.’
Over in Bilston, West Midlands, Paul Seddon was called out to a flat where the owner had spotted a salamander on the balcony of their second-floor apartment and was too afraid to approach.
Mr Seddon said: ‘It was a soft toy complete with labels … I borrowed a brush to knock it off on to the ground so I could pick it up.’
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Ellie West said she was called to a report of a snake in a garden which turned out to be an elephant hawk-moth caterpillar.
‘They’re really interesting animals that can inflate their front end and have circular dots along their body, so they’re easily mistaken for snakes.’
‘We’re very grateful to the caller, who thought they were helping a non-native loose snake.
‘Instead, however, this caterpillar was returned to the wild, and can look forward to transforming into a beautiful moth.’