A concerned man repeatedly called police in the hope they could rescue his pet hamster from his ex-partner who had overfeed it so much that it looked like “a fat little pig”.
Northumbria Police revealed the strange request during an appeal to help remind the public when to call 101 as “roughly 15%” of the one million calls it receives annually are about “non-police matters” and cost taxpayers around £200,000.
Police said that more than 400 calls a day have to be referred to other organisations, such as the RSPCA.
“They also include reports of faulty street lamps, fly tipping and dog fouling - all of which are ordinarily matters for other agencies,” police said.
Other less typical emergency calls the force had received included complaints about the “seasoning of a burger and an overly amorous dog”.
“There have also been reports asking police to come and catch a spider, a woman who claimed she had been overcharged at a supermarket and one person even called to report an overly friendly dog.”
Northumbria Police’s Chief Superintendent Sav Patsalos said the current number of inappropriate calls is down to a lack of information about the service rather than the public.
Patsalos, head of the force communication centres, said: “We frequently get 101 calls about non-police issues like fly tipping or nuisance parking when the local authority is the best place to go.
“We also get calls about injured animals where the RSPCA can assist, problems with mobile phones where Ofcom can give advice and what to do about scrap vehicles when the DVLA need to be notified.
“These calls to our 101 service mean our call handlers act as a referral service rather than being able to help those in need.”
Patsalos said the appeal was not about “trying to embarrass” people as the majority of callers “genuinely think that we will be able to help them with whatever situation they find themselves in”.
He added: “What we are trying to do is educate people about when it is appropriate to call the police and when it is appropriate to contact another organisation.
“Our call handlers need to use their time delivering the best possible service and to making sure those who need a police response receive one.”
Northumbria Police have updated its website to include a host of information about who people should contact in a “particular situation as well as a list of frequently asked questions”.