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‘No choice but to swim’: RSPCA rescues horses from floodwater amid 100 emergency calls

The RSPCA dealt with more than 100 emergency calls during Storm Dennis, including swimming to rescue horses in Hampshire.

The charity, part of Defra’s National Flood Response Team, has around 65 officers trained and equipped to deal with flood-stricken animals and a fleet of 35 inflatable boats.

They received more than 100 calls over the weekend and more today (17 February).

Marie Stevens and Rebecca Carter from the charity were called to a field near Testwood Nature Reserve in Hampshire on Sunday to find five horses belly-deep in rising floodwater.

“We worked together to wade into the water constantly checking the levels,” said Ms Stevens.

“It was a high-risk rescue as there were areas that were 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 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 on to her as we guided the second across.”

The horses’ owner arrived as the light started to fade, making it unsafe for the rescuers to continue their mission. The owner decided to rescue the 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.”

A rescue team was also called to lead a horse trapped on a tiny patch of ground surrounded by rising water in a field in Guildford, while another crew was sent to Holme Lacy Road in Herefordshire today (Monday) to a herd of horses trapped in a flooded field. The team traced the owners — who had been evacuated from their home — and are monitoring the horses.

RSPCA inspector Jason Finch said the charity has had “a number of dramatic rescues”.

“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,” he said.

“We’ve been incredibly busy and our amazing staff have been working round the clock to help as many animals as possible.

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“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.

“Working during floods and storms is extremely challenging because we have to ensure the safety of our staff, members of the public and the animals themselves.”

RSPCA urge the public and owners to never put their own lives in danger to attempt and animal rescue.

For the latest on flood warnings, call Floodline on 0845 9881188. To report an animal in danger, call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 with a time, date and location.

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