MANY years of service spent rescuing animals has earned a retired firefighter a top award.
Russell Brown was honoured at the House of Lords by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in recognition of his many years of dedication to rescuing animals in distress.
Russell, better-known as Buster, has been an animal rescue specialist with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service for five years but has been rescuing large animals as part of his general fire service duties for more than 20 years.
The 58-year-old, from Havant, completed his 30-year service as a full-time firefighter in 2009 and then took up a dedicated animal rescue role with the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
He is one of a team of four specialists that covers the whole of Hampshire and beyond, sometimes travelling great distances to help animals in a wide variety of predicaments.
It is not just cats up trees. There have been swans, foxes, owls, cows, horses and bulls.
Animal rescues are regarded as one of the most dangerous challenges a modern firefighter will face.
Mr Brown said: ‘I was very surprised to be nominated and I am grateful to IFAW.
‘I am receiving this on behalf of the whole team.
‘As one of four animal rescuers in the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, I don’t do anything that is different from the others but it is great that a charity is rewarding this work.’
One of the rescues Buster has been involved with was that of a swan which had landed on a house balcony but didn’t have enough space to escape.
Because swans can cause significant injuries, he had to use his expertise to release it safely without hurting himself or the swan.
Other wild animal rescues have included a fox stuck between a wall and a garage and an owl which had flown onto the balcony of a three-storey block of flats.
He had to call out a fire appliance to use its hydraulic ladder to reach the owl, then netted it and handed it to the RSPCA who reunited it with its owner.
Azzedine Downes, president and chief executive officer of IFAW, said: ‘Buster’s dedication has seen him rescue countless animals, many in very precarious situations and he is a great example of front-line animal welfare in action.
‘He is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Animal Rescue Award.’
The award was presented by Baroness Gale and wildlife presenter Bill Oddie.