AN UNLUCKY dog found itself stuck down a hole for over five hours after chasing a rabbit.

RSPCA officers and a crew from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service were called to an area of land near Merrybent Drive, Darlington, after 11-year-old Rick the Patterdale Terrier became lost underground.

The dog had run down the hole in pursuit of a rabbit and found himself stuck in the warren.

Clare Wilson, an RSPCA Inspector, said Rick's owners had been digging for three hours when she arrived at the scene at around 6pm.

She said: "We could hear faint whimpering but it was really difficult to establish where Rick was.

"I called out County Durham and Darlington fire brigade to assist as I was hoping they would have an endoscopic camera we could use to try and locate Rick.

"Unfortunately they didn’t have access to a camera but they set to digging.

"We all tried to work out where Rick was based on the whimpering getting louder and thankfully just before we lost the light I managed to take a photo down a pipe to finally locate Rick."

The terrier had gotten stuck inside an underground pipe which had to be broken by the fire brigade and by 9pm Rick was finally set free.

The Northern Echo:

RSPCA Inspector Wilson said both the dog and his owners were relieved at Rick's regained freedom.

She added: "Thankfully apart from needing a bath Rick seemed no worse for wear after five hours trapped underground.

"I don’t think his owners will be letting him off the lead in that area again - they were very relieved and took him straight home.

"I want to thank Green watch of County Durham and Darlington fire brigade who I know persevered after their shift finished to get Rick out. They were fantastic.

The Northern Echo:

"I would also like to remind owners with dogs who have a propensity to chase wildlife to keep them on a lead in areas with rabbit warrens."

To report an animal in distress the RSPCA can be contacted on 0300 1234 999