A dramatic rescue took place after three heavily pregnant sheep fell into the canal during storms.

The animals, weighing about 60kg each, fell into deep water close to Stanlow in Ellesmere Port on Saturday afternoon.

Faced with choppy waters and battling wind and rain, the rescue operation saw officers from the RSPCA joined by a fire security officer from the Essar oil refinery as they fought to pull out the sheep close to drowning in the canal.

RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes entered the water and pulled out the sheep, who were in a 'distressed' state and 'heavily pregnant'.

The sheep are brought to safety on dry land by officers from the RSPCA
The sheep are brought to safety on dry land by officers from the RSPCA
 

“These were three very lucky sheep not to have drowned,” said Insp Joynes, who thanked fire security officer John Bate and staff from SGS who boarded a ferry to help.

“I could not have even attempted this rescue without them, these sheep were heavily pregnant and must have weighed more than 60kg.

“They would have drowned very quickly if they had not been spotted.”

Insp Joynes described the incident as the 'perfect rescue' saying it was a 'great example of team work' to save the lives of the animals which would have died without their help.

He said: “Some people may say that these were just sheep probably bound for the slaughterhouse at some point in the future but that doesn't matter in the slightest; they were suffering and it is my job to prevent that from happening.

“The sheep, apart from being extremely cold, appeared little affected by their afternoon swim and went back to doing what sheep do best – eating grass.”