'There's a snake in my sofa!': RSPCA's funniest calls of 2021 revealed

RSPCA snake in garden

A 'snake' was found in a Greater Manchester garden... - Credit: RSPCA

A Weston man who thought he had a snake in his sofa has been listed among the RSPCA's funniest callouts of 2021.

The animal protection charity has released a list of some of the most unusual requests from the public to cheer us up on Blue Monday, said to be the most depressing day of the year (January 17).

"Whether it’s a case of mistaken identity or a well-intentioned accident, every year the RSPCA receives dozens of call-outs that turn out to be far from first thought," said a spokesperson. 

"While RSPCA officers have to deal with a lot of distressing and shocking cases, they are also called out to some rather strange situations. And, often, many turn out to be a mistake."

Here are some of their best calls from 2021...

Miss-taken identity

Inspector Kim Walters came to the rescue after a man in Weston called the RSPCA about a large snake that was stuck in his sofa. 

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The man explained he’d bought the sofa a few months earlier and he could feel the body of a snake under the cushions. 

Kim was doubtful about the snake but went out to assist the man who was very frightened; and discovered it was just a part of the sofa!

Get stuffed!

Inspector Dale Grant was concerned when he received a call reporting a dog squealing and crying, tethered tightly to a canal boat in London. 

Dale rushed to the Grand Union Canal, in Hayes, on May 14, only to find his expertise wouldn’t be required. 

“I was really worried that I could be walking into a dire situation involving a dog in a really dangerous predicament but it turns out I needn’t have worried,” Dale said. 

“The ‘dog’ in question turned out to be a stuffed toy tiger that had been tied onto the bow of the boat.”

RSPCA dog on boat

This 'dog' was tethered to a boat in London - Credit: RSPCA

What the duck?

With freezing conditions and snowfall across most of the north of England, RSPCA animal rescue officer Shane Lynn was very concerned when he had a call come in on January 7 from a woman reporting a duck stuck in the ice. 

He said: “The caller claimed the bird had been stuck in the frozen pond for two days and hadn’t been able to move.” 

Shane braved the icy conditions to drive over to Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, to help the stricken bird. But all was not as it seemed.

“As soon as I arrived and located the pond I realised my help wouldn’t be required as the duck was in fact a plastic ornament.”

‘Chair’s something in the water!’

A passing motorist contacted the RSPCA for help on February 1 after spotting a swan in peril on the River Stour, Dorset. 

RSPCA officer Graham Hammond rushed out to help the bird said to be tangled in electric fencing on the water after the river burst its banks and flooded into neighbouring fields off New Road in Bournemouth. 

He said: “I went out to check on the bird and had prepared to call out the water rescue team for back-up but, before they hit the road, I managed to get closer and get a good look at the ‘bird’ - which turned out to be a white plastic chair floating in the water.” 

RSPCA swan chair dorset

This swan turned out to be a chair in flood waters - Credit: RSPCA

That’s hiss-terical! 

A member of the public called in the RSPCA and emergency services after spotting a snake on their roof in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. 

He said he couldn’t sleep as he was worried it might be dangerous and the responding police officer was concerned so advised calling in the charity. 
Animal rescue officer Ollie Wilkes attended the scene on March 22. 

He said: “It was difficult to see in the dark so the fire and rescue service used a long hook to pull the snake down and we very quickly realised there was nothing for anyone to worry about; because it was a headless rubber toy. 

"I suspect a bird of prey had swooped down and picked it up before dropping it on the roof when it realised it wasn’t a tasty treat.”

RSPCA snake on roof

This toy snake was on a roof - Credit: RSPCA

Toy-tally amazing

Dealing with potentially dangerous and unpredictable animals is all part of the job for RSPCA inspectors, however, on occasion some calls don’t quite turn out as expected, as RSPCA inspector Demi Hodby discovered. 

A man had spotted a 3ft-long snake while clearing the garden of his house in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, on March 30 but continued his work keeping a close eye on the reptile as he didn’t want it to disappear into nearby shrubbery which he had cut down. 

When the snake hadn’t moved two hours later he called the RSPCA. 

Demi said: “When I arrived I had my grasping pole ready to safely grab the snake. 

"It's really important to approach these situations to confine the animal as safely as possible, particularly if it’s suspected that the snake may be venomous. 

"However, it didn’t take me too long to realise that this snake was the plastic kind." 

The man, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I was just cutting back some shrubbery when I noticed it. It looked so camouflaged in the leaves and was curled around so it looked convincing. 

"When the inspector came and we both realised it was a toy we had to laugh about it - it was such a funny moment."

RSPCA snake in garden

A 'snake' was found in a Greater Manchester garden... - Credit: RSPCA

What rubbish!

RSPCA animal rescue officer David Holgate expected a sad scene after being called by a member of public to a rural spot near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, on April 15. 

He said: "A passerby had spotted a number of black bin bags, one of which was split open and the body of a dead badger could be seen poking out. 

"I thought I’d be investigating the suspicious death of a beautiful badger but I was quite relieved when I arrived to find fly tipped rubbish bags containing garden waste. 

"The upturned contents of a flower pot - clumped soil and plant roots - did look suspicious from a distance."

RSPCA badger in bin

Fears over this rubbish turned out to be unfounded - Credit: RSPCA

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

Animal rescue officer Lisa Miller rushed to Woolwich, London, on April 23 after a member of the public called concerned about a bird that was tangled in a flag pole on the roof of a black of flats. 

Lisa said: "The woman had spotted the bird caught in string and tangled with the flag pole. She said the bird had been trying to fly away but couldn’t free itself. 

"When I arrived at the scene I quickly established that I wouldn’t need to launch a rescue mission; as it was a plastic bird scarer. She was very embarrassed but we had a giggle and I told her she should go to Specsavers." 

RSPCA bird on chord

This was not a bird trapped in wire... - Credit: RSPCA

A piece of snake!

RSPCA rescuer Beth Boyd had a shock when she was called to rescue a snake that turned out to be part of an art installation. 

She rushed to an area of woodland in Cranham, Gloucestershire, on May 27 after a member of the public reported a dumped snake that wasn’t moving. 

She said: "It was a really weird job. When I arrived I quickly found the snake which was in fact a taxidermy snake arranged inside a block as part of an art piece.

"I did have a chuckle. I suppose art is there to cause a stir, and this certainly did. 

"I left a note attached to the piece to explain that the snake was not real and to avoid any further call-outs." 

Taxidermist and artist Polly Morgan created the piece - called Consider the Risk - to explore issues of containment, control and concealment, and alludes to the ‘distorting effect that social media has on our physical selves’. 

Pleasssse help!

Members of the public were concerned after spotting what they described as an ‘exotic’ snake abandoned on a footpath in Hockley, Essex, just days before Christmas. 

RSPCA animal rescuer Natalie Read went out to help and was concerned about the snake’s welfare due to the cold, wet weather on December 23. 

The reptile had been described as ‘very weak and lethargic’, which was, perhaps, unsurprising given that she discovered it was a rubber toy. 


A woman and her son were frightened after spotting a snake sitting on a garden chair in a Cumbria garden and called the police for help who alerted the RSPCA. 
Animal rescuer Martyn Fletcher was nearby and attended the Workington address on 23 June; but all was not as it first seemed. 

He said: "It didn’t take me too long to realise that this King Cobra was the plastic kind - thankfully too, as they are deadly venomous snakes. 

"Obviously we are trained to be able to identify snakes but it is not so obvious to members of the public - so I understand they may have been spooked by the sighting. 

"It appears that the toy had come from children in a neighbouring garden - so the snake has now been returned to its home."

RSPCA snake on chair

A mother and son got a fright when they found this 'snake' on a chair - Credit: RSPCA

A spokesperson said: "No day is ever the same at the RSPCA and we get called to the weird and wonderful as well as the sad. One thing you learn very quickly in this job is to expect the unexpected. 

"While these calls certainly gave us a chuckle there is also an important message here: we’re stretched more and more each year and, while we appreciate that all of these callers were trying to do their best and help what they believed to be an animal in need, we’d urge the public to stop, think and check before asking us for help. 

"We’d hate to send an officer out to rescue a distressed dog that turned out to be a stuffed toy or an abandoned snake that was in fact a plastic toy and miss out on rescuing a real animal in need."

Staff would ask the public to monitor any sick, injured or trapped animals from a safe distance and to report concerns to our emergency hotline - open 365 days a year - on 0300 1234 999.