Stowaway bra lizard among RSPCA’s strangest rescues of 2021

Image showing the sheep, owl, lizard and horse in the sticky situations described in the article
Let us introduce you to the year’s most awkward animals (Picture: RSPCA)

As we come to the end of 2021, it’s customary to look back on the past 12 months and consider what we have done with them.

For most of us, there will be some things we’re proud of and other things… not so much.

But if you do regret that awkward text, misspelled tattoo or wave at someone who was actually looking at someone else, just remember that none of us are perfect and we all have those moments we wish we could take back.

Take, for example, this gang of miscreants – who had to have the RSPCA called out on them, and had their shame immortalised in the process.

The animal charity has shared some of its funniest, most surprising, or just downright weird rescues of the year, and it actually cheered me right up?

Out of 281,390 incidents reported to the charity’s emergency hotline up until November this year, some probably won’t be forgotten quickly.

Here we go…

1. Toilet snake

Image of the snake found in toilet
More of a nightmare, this one, I’ll be honest (Picture: RSPCA)
You thought things like this only happened in Australia? Sorry to break it to you but that photo was taken in Hale, Greater Manchester. Unfortunately, some exotic pet owners forget to keep the cage door closed, or perhaps they just watched too much Free Willy. This particular serpent was lurking in the loo of Coronation Street actor Harry Visinoni – who plays Seb Franklin .

He was (LUCKILY) brushing his teeth when he noticed movement in the early hours of 9 January.

‘I didn’t take it in at first and then looked again and realised what I had actually seen so I left the bathroom quickly and closed the door,’ he said.

‘We went back in and watched as the snake then slithered onto the top of the toilet and sat on the seat just looking at us!’

He and his girlfriend called the RSPCA the following morning and rescuer Sonia Hulme went to collect the royal python, now hiding behind the radiator.

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It has been named Lulu and is now being cared for by specialists.

2. Ladder badgers

Two badgers stuck behind a ladder
You’ve heard of snakes on plane, but what about badgers on a ladder? (Picture: RSPCA)
We’re not quite sure how or why these two badgers ended up halfway up a ladder on a canal in South Wales.

They seemed pretty tangled up, and luckily someone reported it to the charity.

RSPCA officers alongside firefighters were called to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in Cwmbran on February 5.

They abseiled down the canal wall and grabbed one of the badgers with a grasper, with nets below as a precaution.

The second badger jumped into the water and, after clambering back onto the ladder, was pulled to safety.

Both badgers were checked over and released back to the wild.

Sian said: ‘Without doubt, this was the most bizarre and unusual day of my 15 years spent on the frontline for animals.’

3. Teething problems

A white puppy with his teeth stuck on the bars of his cage
What a gnaw-ty pup (Picture: RSPCA)
George the puppy needed help after getting his teeth stuck on the bars of his crate. Kate Atkins had been crate-training her 11-week-old Westie pup on 15 March when she heard him squealing and found he’d got his top jaw stuck on the bars.

She called the fire service and RSPCA officers for help.

Inspector Anthony Joynes travelled to Wales to help. He said: ‘George was in a real pickle. He was in a very uncomfortable position and his owner had had to hold him for 45 minutes while I rushed down from the Wirral to their home in Flint to help.’

He used bolt-cutters to cut through the bars.

Owner Kate said: ‘Anthony managed to cut George out quite quickly and I gave him a big cuddle before taking him to the vet for a check up. Thankfully, he hadn’t sustained any major injury, other than a few bruises, and I was able to settle him down when we got home, tired and a bit quiet.’

4. Fox in a duck

A fox cub lodged inside a wire duck
Look at the eyes! (Picture: RSPCA)

A fox cub found itself in a fix after getting stuck fast inside a metal duck-shaped planter.

RSPCA animal rescue officer Brian Milligan was called to Faversham, Kent, on April 13.

He said: ‘Fox cubs are incredibly inquisitive and that does mean they end up in rather strange situations sometimes.

‘This poor little cub had got himself wedged inside a metal wire, duck-shaped planter in someone’s garden.

‘It took a while to cut him free and his mum was nowhere to be seen so we took him to our wildlife centre nearby to be reared before being released when he’s old enough.’

5. Owl ornament

A tawny owl sitting on a mantelpiece
Looks like it belongs there actually. It’s the owl’s house now (Picture: RSPCA)

A Merseyside couple had a shock when they heard a commotion coming from their living room and found a tawny owl sat on the fireplace.

The bird had flown down the chimney, knocked over some of their possessions, smashed a vase and then sat on the mantelpiece and had a nap.

RSPCA inspector Lisa Lupson went to the Southport home on April 27 and managed to usher him out of the window.

The following day, he was back again in the same place having apparently enjoyed his stay.

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Homeowner Ed said: ‘I couldn’t believe it the first time – then the fact it came back the day after – I thought I might have to start charging it rent!

‘It was so funny to see it sat in the same spot and he actually looked like an ornament on the mantle shelf rather than a real bird.’

Animal rescue officer Lauren Bradshaw caught the owl and released him in the garden.

So far, he hasn’t yet returned…

6. Blue pigeon

A pigeon being cleaned as it is covered in blue paint
Not quite as undignified as the seagull that fell in a vat of curry (Picture: RSPCA)
A pigeon was left feeling blue after falling into a tray of paint at a Surrey police station. RSPCA rescuer Nat Kitchin was called to Guildford Police Station on May 5 by the decorators after the pigeon got more than he bargained for.

Nat said: ‘The decorators were painting the cells and found a pigeon who’d managed to get locked in.

‘In his panic to escape he fell into a tray of blue paint and ended up in a right mess.’

Nat caught the bird and took him to Wildlife Air nearby where staff were able to clean the water-based paint off his feathers.

Once he was clean and had been given the all-clear he was released back into the wild.

‘He’d definitely done his time,’ Nat added.

7. Squirrelled away

A squirrel trapped inside a cylindrical bird feeder
We feel a bit like this trying to wear jeans post-Christmas (Picture: RSPCA)
A greedy squirrel needed a hand after getting wedged in a birdfeeder in Northwich, Cheshire, on June 19. Rescuer Caren Goodman-Jones was called after a resident spotted the stricken creature in the neighbour’s garden.

He was stuck in the feeder which was hanging from a bird table.

Caren said: ‘In his struggle the feeder fell to the floor and when I arrived it had rolled into some nearby bushes.

‘He was obviously frightened but otherwise appeared unscathed from his ordeal – however he probably needs to lay off the nuts for a while!’

She freed him in situ and he made a quick getaway.

8. Swan dive

A swan in a bathroom after crashing through the window
Yes, you are looking at a swan in someone’s bathroom, in front of broken glass in a basin (Picture: RSPCA)

An elderly woman had a lucky escape after a swan crash-landed through a double-glazed window – just moments after she left the bathroom.

The bird was flying when she hit the window of the chalet home in Barton in Fabis, Nottinghamshire, on January 11.

She went to investigate the smashing sound and found the bloodied bird sat dazed and confused on her bathroom floor.

A neighbour who heard the commotion and went to help called the RSPCA and Inspector Keith Ellis went to collect the bird.
The swan facing the camera with shards of glass from the window on the floor, and the sink in the background
The swan crashed right through the window (Picture: RSPCA)
A photo taken from outside the chalet showing the broken window
The swan needed surgery and rehab (Picture: RSPCA)
He said: ‘I think the swan was looking and flying to the nearby River Trent and must have misjudged the direction.

‘It was also quite windy at the time which may have blown her off course.

‘I have seen them crash-land onto busy roads thinking they are rivers but nothing like this – it is so bizarre.’

basic puppy socialization

She was taken to a vet and needed surgery and stitches before being transferred to the charity’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in Cheshire, for rehabilitation.

9. Not such a mountain goat

A goat halfway down a steep cliff
If you look closely, you can see the goat halfway up (Picture: RSPCA)
RSPCA and fire officers were called to help a goat who got stuck halfway up a 50m-high cliff edge in a County Durham quarry. Members of the public spotted the animal stranded on the ledge in Raisby Quarry, Coxhoe, on January 20 and raised the alarm. Inspector Terri-Ann Fannon and Newton Aycliffe Fire & Rescue Service launched a rescue mission.

She said: ‘We were able to carefully use the fire hose to spray water just below the goat to gently encourage him to move and coax him to safety.

‘Goats are excellent climbers so we knew if he could be encouraged he’d be able to climb back up the cliff himself.’

The goat made it to the top to a safer position, much to the delight of the rescue team.

10. Stuck stallion

A horse stuck with its front legs on one side of a gate and its back legs on the other
This one is probably the most awkward rescue – and he did it to try for some romance as well. You thought Tinder was difficult? (Picture: RSPCA)

A stallion found himself in an embarrassing spot after getting stuck straddling a gate.

Rescuer Tina Nash was called to a field in Rochester, Kent, on August 10 after passing walkers spotted his plight.

She said: ‘He was trying to get to the mares but obviously isn’t the greatest showjumper and got himself stuck halfway.

‘He could have walked along the fenceline a little further to see his lady friends!’

A crew from Kent Fire & Rescue Service came to help winch the skewbald from the gate and release him back into his paddock.

11. Sheepish goalie

A sheep tangled in the net of a football goal
‘You’re probably wondering how I ended up here…’ (Picture: RSPCA)
A ewe managed to get tangled in netting in Rossendale, Lancashire. A homeowner raised the alarm on August 22 and rescuer Vicki McDonald went to lend a hand.

The poor ewe had got herself stuck in netting from a football goal and had it tangled around her neck.

Thankfully Vicki was able to cut her free, check her over for injuries and release her back to her flock in the neighbouring field.

The RSPCA recommends putting netting away when not in use as it can pose a hazard to animals who can get tangled and seriously injured.

12. Python at large

A large snake hanging in tree branches
It’s definitely reminding us of Kaa and that Disney hypnosis scene (Picture: RSPCA)
A motorcyclist had quite the fright when he was riding along a quiet country lane in Conington, Cambridgeshire, and spotted a huge snake slithering in the road. RSPCA rescuer Justin Stubbs went out to help on August 27, but the snake had climbed up a tree.

He said: ‘I really could not believe it when I got there and saw this huge snake all the way up in the tree – it was a scene a bit reminiscent of the Jungle Book!’

He called the fire service for help and, together, they cut the branches around the 10ft reticulated python – thought to have been abandoned – and caught him on tarpaulin below.

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Justin added: ‘I’ve rescued hundreds of animals from trees over my 25 years with the RSPCA, cats, birds, foxes, and I’ve been called to many snakes, but I wasn’t expecting to see this stunning animal wrapped high up around tree branches in the English countryside.’

13. Brabados getaway

A small, dark brown gecko sitting on a white lacy bra
An unexpected stowaway (Picture: RSPCA)
A lingerie-loving lizard travelled more than 4,000 miles in a woman’s bra from Barbados to Rotherham, South Yorkshire. The globe-trotting gecko was spotted by Lisa Russell when she returned to her home on September 8 and went to unpack her suitcase.

She gave her bra a shake and saw the gecko scamper off.

She said: ‘I thought it was a tiny dead creature and then when it moved I started screaming – it is not what you expect to find in your bra after a 4,000-mile journey!

‘I wasn’t sure what to do – but managed to put it safely in a box and then called the RSPCA for help.’

Sandra Dransfield was sent to collect the gecko and took him to a specialist for care.

14. Podge-hog

A chubby hedgehog with its head stuck in the bars of a gate
Someone fetch the vaseline (Picture: RSPCA)
A hedgehog found himself in a bit of a prickle after becoming wedged between the bars of a metal gate in Nottingham.

He was discovered on September 20 after a worried member of the public called the RSPCA for help.

Rescuer Teresa Potter said: ‘The poor hog had managed to get stuck between the bars of the metal gate and there was no way he was getting out on his own.

‘The member of the public had tried to free him and called us for help.

‘He was quite a large boy, and so I had to carefully and slowly wiggle him out.

‘I checked him over and although he didn’t have any injuries he was breathing fast so I took him to a nearby vet as a precaution.

‘Fortunately he was given the all clear – so I was able to release him back to the wild – where he could make his way back home.’

15. Reptile on the roof

An iguana lying right at the top of the roof of a two storey house, next to the chimney
You would be quite surprised to see that (Picture: RSPCA)
A more zoomed-in photo of the iguana
Okay, I need a closer look… (Picture: RSPCA)

A runaway lizard prompted a major rescue mission after he slipped out of his enclosure, climbed out of a window, scaled the outside wall of his terraced home and settled in to sunbathe on the roof.

RSPCA inspector David Grant was called to Folkestone Harbour in Kent on September 27 to help the daredevil lizard. David said: ‘It’s the first time I’ve ever been called out to rescue an iguana, particularly one on the loose on a roof. ‘As it was so high up, I called Kent Fire & Rescue who were able to provide their expertise and equipment to help get the lizard down safely.

‘We didn’t want him to run off by frightening him unnecessarily, so we used my drop-net to capture him and we soon had him back on the ground.’

He was reunited with his owners who will now be taking extra steps to make sure he can’t escape to heights again.

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16. Skunk at B&Q

An RSPCA inspector carrying the black and white skunk
The lesson here is to always microchip your skunk (Picture: RSPCA)

A missing skunk who’d been on the run for a week was rescued and reunited with his owner after giving staff at a DIY store in Nottinghamshire a bit of a shock.

Rescuer Dan Bradshaw was called to B&Q Worksop on 19 October after staff opening up found him eating bird seed outside.

They managed to corner and confine him before calling the RSPCA for help and Dan was able to trace his owner. ‘

It was lovely to be able to reunite Tilikum with his owner. I advised them to get him microchipped so they could be reunited more quickly in the future should he ever escape again.’

17. Dog in airing cupboard

The dog stuck behind a boiler, with pipes and a metal spanner next to it
And be careful with dogs and boilers too (Picture: RSPCA)

A spooked dog got stuck behind a water tank at her home after being frightened by a loud noise.

Her owner, June Coates, tried to coax her out but called for back-up from the RSPCA.

Rescuer David McAdam went to help nine-year-old Suzie after she got wedged tight in the airing cupboard in Nottingham on October 28. He said: ‘Poor Suzie heard a loud noise at a building site nearby and it terrified her and she bolted into the airing cupboard. She then got her rear left leg stuck under a pipe tight onto her hip.

‘I had a good look but it was impossible for me to get her free as removing her could have potentially ended up hurting her.’

A plumber drained the tank and cut the pipe so her rescuers could carefully pull her free.

June said: ‘I am just grateful to everyone who worked to help free her. She burned herself under her tummy so I took her to the vet for treatment. I’m so glad that she was freed – it was a worrying time.’

18. High-rise cat rescue

The cat in a red crate on the balcony after being rescued. The balcony appears to be quite high up
The rescue was quite high up (Picture: RSPCA)
The cat wedged in a small gap in the balcony between wall and glass. Its compressed by the see-through glass  and looks quite flat
The cat got wedged in a gap on a neighbour’s balcony (Picture: RSPCA)

An indoor cat managed to escape from an eighth floor window then got stuck in a ledge on a neighbour’s balcony after climbing along a ledge on September 21.

RSPCA rescuer Nick Jonas and London Fire Brigade came to the rescue in Camden Town, London. Nick said: ‘They called in their turntable ladder team to chip away part of the stone wall ledge so we could free the puss and return him to his owner who was there to oversee the whole rescue mission.’

19. Badger in compost bin

The badger's head poking up out of a turquoise compost bin
Quite fashionable actually (Picture: RSPCA)

A badger found himself stuck inside a compost bin after trying to scavenge fofr some food.

He climbed inside and then couldn’t get back out, ending up looking like a nested Russian doll. RSPCA rescuer Louis Horton rushed to Guildford, Surrey, on November 24.

‘The green plastic compost bin would normally have a lid secured on top but this inquisitive and hungry badger had spotted an opportunity for what he thought would be an easy meal and clambered in through the open top,’ he said.

‘The compost bin was around 2ft tall and narrower at the top so although the poor little guy could poke his head out of the top, he couldn’t squeeze himself up and out.

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‘I used some power tools to carefully cut the top of the plastic away and lift him out.’

The badger went to Wildlife Aid Foundation for a check-up before being released two days later.

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