'Is the Beer Store open?' and 9 other inappropriate calls to Hamilton's 911

The list includes a number of questions better asked elsewhere, a sick cat, a humping dog and a mysterious noise coming from a light bulb.
Victoria police await approval from the Ministry of Transportation for a one-year pilot project that would see solid blue lights used at all times on six of their vehicles. (CBC)

One caller asked if the Beer Store is open while another complained about a cold burger and fries. There are among thousand of 911 calls to Hamilton police in 2018 that should have never been made.

Those examples are from a just-released list of the 10 worst cases of inappropriate 911 calls to the city's emergency dispatch centre from the year.

Nearly a third of the 195,000 emergency calls made so far this year were not emergencies, and many were frivolous and trivial. They included a number of questions better asked elsewhere: about a sick cat, a humping dog and a mysterious noise coming from a light bulb.

"Call 911 if it's a crime in progress, if there are injuries or if someone is in imminent danger," says service spokesperson Jackie Penman.

Calls like noise complaints or waking up to find your car has been broken into overnight should be made to the non-emergency police number, Penman said.

"The biggest danger is when we experience a high volume of calls, a person with a serious emergency could have to wait."

She says calls made to the non-emergency police line, at 905-546-4925, will still get a police response.

To remind the public when not to call, emergency operators chose their top 10 non-emergency calls for the year:

  • Checking to see what time it is
  • Reporting a hacked Facebook account
  • Assault by a humping dog
  • Reporting a sick cat
  • Asking if the Beer Store is open
  • A noise coming from a lightbulb
  • A cat in front of the house
  • When Canada Day fireworks are taking place
  • A discrepancy in retail pricing
  • Cold McDonald's food

Accidental 911 calls are also an issue for Hamilton police who have assigned a full-time staff member to deal only with abandoned calls.

About 4,500 people hung up before the calls were answered, meaning dispatchers had to spend time calling them back to confirm there was no emergency.

Non-emergency calls aren't just a problem in Hamilton. Earlier this month, police in Simcoe, Ont. rushed to a home after a nine-year-old girl called 911 because her mom asked her to clean her room.