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April 30, 1971
Grover Road resident Mrs “Bunny” Hensby was shocked on Thursday when the fire brigade refused to turn out to rescue a cat from a rooftop in Oxhey Avenue.
Teacher at a London college, Mrs Hensby arrived home in the afternoon to find neighbours had been trying in vain to get aid for the cat which had been on the roof since the previous day.
Mrs Hensby dialled 999 and was put through to the brigade. “They refused to help,” she said.
Next she tried Watford Police, who advised her to get in touch with the RSPCA at a St Albans number. When she telephoned, her call was answered by a recording machine which explained the inspector could be contacted between 8.30 and 9.30am and between 1 and 2pm, subject to his duties.
So Mrs Hensby, who claims she had already made about three calls to the police, rang them again. They then said they would send an officer to assess the situation as soon as there was one available.
Meanwhile, getting quite desperate, Mrs Hensby saw a TV van with ladders parked outside a house. She asked if the man would rescue the cat. “He did, without any hesitation,” she said.
“I think it is appalling an animal can be trapped in circumstances like this and people can appeal to the emergency services in this country and be passed from one to the other without any action whatsoever. We pay rates for an emergency service and we, the general public, are entitled to be able to call on it and not to have it pushed off onto a voluntary organisation,” she said.
A fire brigade spokesman said it was now county policy normally to refer such calls to the RSPCA.
“The fire brigade is not an emergency service for rescuing cats up trees,” he said. “It is an emergency service for saving human lives and for fighting fires.”
[From the Watford Observer of April 30, 1971]
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