By Alice Fuller
A fox trapped at a bowling alley was rescued by council officers after the RSPCA refused to help.
Lewisham council staff freed the animal from a store cupboard at Lewisham Bowl on November 6.
The RSPCA said it wouldn’t attend without confirmation the wild fox was trapped or sick, but has since apologised for the error.
Lewisham Bowl operations manager Mark Garrett, 58, said: “I’m not a vet so I couldn’t be certain, but it was trapped in a cupboard and it must have been scared out of its mind at the very least.”
The charity call centre worker advised leaving the cupboard door open so the fox could escape on its own.
Mark pointed out the only way out was through the bowling alley diner which was open to the public.
He said: “The thought of a scared fox running amok in amongst our customers, which included very small children, was not something I was going to do.
“If it managed to escape and head out of the front doors, the poor fox would meet with almost certain death on the busy road outside, which certainly goes against the prevention of cruelty bit of the organisation.
“The instructions they gave would potentially have put the fox in more danger, if not death, which it occurred to me went against its remit as the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.”
The fox, named “Sam” by bowling alley staff, hadn’t moved from the spot it was found at 11am so Mark called the council for advice.
Lewisham council’s animal welfare department officers Claire and George came to the rescue within 40 minutes and Sam was taken away safely at about 1.30pm.
Mark said: “The local council did attend and did an excellent job without the red tape the RSPCA put in the way.”
Mark said the charity even turned down the offer of a donation on behalf of Lewisham Bowl to cover the charity’s costs.
He added: “I have been involved in leisure in one way or another since I was 17 and I can honestly say the fox was a first for me. As was the RSPCA supposedly working to save animals but refusing to do so.
“It just seemed to me the RSPCA did everything in its power not to save a poor animal and that Lewisham Council more than stepped up. And good for them.”
The RSPCA’s policy states that it seeks to protect wild animals from any form of suffering and strongly urges they receive a far greater degree of protection under the law.
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “Sadly there was an error in the way this call was handled, and we are sorry that this caused upset to the staff.
“This was a genuine mistake and we have fed back to our call centre.
“We are pleased to hear that the staff were able to find help for this fox.”