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A horse in a pub, a plastic equine mistaken for the real thing and an old bath are among the calls made in error to the RSPCA last year.

In a bid to brighten up Blue Monday – the day a holiday company claimed was the most depressing of the year – the charity has released a list of its must amusing call-outs in 2017.

These included a number of members of the public ringing in distress to report a horse tied by its legs to a flat-bed trailer and being towed along motorways, as reported by H&H in February. But when RSPCA inspector Richard Lythgoe turned up to investigate, he found a life-size plastic horse.

“We do get lots of calls about horses through to our hotline – but I have never been called out to check up on a fake one before!” he said.

Another equine call was to report that, as the old jokes go, a horse really had walked into a bar, or rather a pub, in Staffordshire.

A fellow punter reported that the horse “seemed unhappy”, had a “shabby coat” and “may have had an injured leg”. But the investigating officer could find no sign of the horse.

H&H reported in August that a number of people had called the RSPCA to report a dead horse in Bradford, West Yorkshire, but that investigators could find no sign of any equine.

A call back to one of the concerned passers-by revealed that the “dead horse” was actually an abandoned bath.

“Suffice to say he was a little embarrassed!” said inspector Nikki Cheetham.

The RSPCA receives one call every 27 seconds about an animal.

Last year these also included a “lizard” in need, which turned out to be a pink striped sock protruding from the edge of a bed in Coventry.

More than one caller was taken in by a toy – as inspectors were sent out to the rescue of a garden ornament heron reported to have a broken leg, a giant plastic toy spider belonging to the caller’s son and a “very realistic” toy cobra.

A householder who called the RSPCA to rescue a cat stuck under her wardrobe was surprised it had not been tempted out by the food she had put down for it – but the “cat” turned out to be a pair of slippers.

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Assistant director of the RSPCA Inspectorate Dermot Murphy says: “When you’re working with animals, you expect the unexpected — but some of the calls we get are downright bizarre! From stuffed toys to socks, our officers have had it all. And while it’s a bit of light relief in a generally tough and emotional job, there’s a serious message here too.

“The RSPCA is under increasing pressure and we’re facing more calls each year. We appreciate that most people mean well but we would urge callers to stop and think before asking us for help. While we’d like to be able to help everyone, we simply haven’t got the staff to personally investigate each and every issue that the public brings to us. We must prioritise to make sure we get to the animals most in need.”

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