Inspectors from the Scottish SPCA came in for a surprise earlier this month when they were called out to investigate a suspected case of donkey neglect.

The charity responded to a call on its helpline on 9 June, which stated that a donkey had been tied to a fence without any shelter.

However, when they arrived they found the animal was, in fact, a life-size fibreglass garden ornament called Joshua.

Staff as unsure as to whether the report was made as a prank or by a well-meaning but short-sighted passer-by.

“The caller stated the donkey was kept in the back garden of a house in Airdrie and tied to a fence without any shelter,” said Scottish SPCA senior Inspector Bill Little.

“When I arrived, the owner asked me if I wanted a laugh and when she showed me the ornamental donkey it certainly gave me a chuckle.

“The donkey is made of fibreglass and goes by the name Joshua. He used to be kept at the side of the house and could be seen by people walking by so it’s possible someone called us as a practical joke.

“However, it may be that someone was genuinely concerned as it is a rather lifelike model.”

Joshua’s owner, Reverend Georgie Baxendale, said: “This is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I used to have two donkeys and bought Joshua as a reminder.

“He’s very eye-catching and has appeared in many nativity plays over the years.

“I think this could have been a joke or maybe the person who reported it just doesn’t know donkeys very well as real ones don’t stand as still as Joshua.”

This isn’t the first time the Scottish SPCA has experienced a case of mistaken identity.

“A couple of years ago one of my colleagues in Aberdeen responded to a report of owl neglect but when he arrived he discovered the distressed bird was in fact a plastic garden water feature,” added Inspector Little.

“On another occasion we were called to rescue a snake lurking in a loft, only to find part of an Adam and Eve Halloween costume.

“This job can be very tough as we deal with cruelty cases and severely injured animals on a daily basis, so it’s quite nice when something like this makes us smile.

“Although this incident was a false alarm, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and we’d encourage anyone with concerns about an animal to call our helpline on 03000 999 999.”