The RSPCA is braced for a surge in abandoned and neglected animals after pet ownership soared during lockdown. 

In Wiltshire there were 29 reports of animals being abandoned last winter – including nine in December – but there are fears that this festive season could be even busier.

During the pandemic pet ownership has surged – with estimates of more than 3.2 million people taking on new additions to their household. 

With people heading back to the workplace, the end of furlough and the worrying rise in prices and energy bills as we get closer to Christmas, the organisation fears the increased stress and pressures will see a rise in abandonment, neglect and even abuse of animals.

Dermot Murphy, who heads the RSPCA frontline rescue teams, said officers will be saving animals across England and Wales throughout the festive season, including Christmas Day.

“Our frontline rescue teams are braced for the worst this Christmas," he said. "We usually see two types of pet abandonment at Christmas and both are heartbreaking. 

“Every year we get reports of people leaving their pets while they visit family and friends. This year is a four day holiday and many people will want to make-up for not being able to see family and friends so some animals will be left for days on their own to fend for themselves.

“It’s not acceptable to simply leave extra food and water for most pets if you are going away.”

Mr Murphy added: “It’s a sad reality that some pets will be turned out on the streets this Christmas and we are braced for even more of that happening as the bills are rising, there are presents to buy or the commitment needed to own a pet becomes too much.

“Please never abandon a pet. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.”

Across the UK the charity responded to 3,004 abandonment incidents in England and Wales last winter with 1,018 of those during the month of December alone. 

So far this year, figures show that abandonment have risen by around 20 per cent compared to 2020. 

Dermot said: “After another exceptionally tough year, this Christmas, more than any should be a time for joy and  togetherness. A time to be safe inside, loved and protected from the cold.

“But for thousands of innocent animals this is sadly not the case. Cruelly treated, neglected and abandoned, many face a Christmas of continued abuse or slow starvation, without warmth or affection. 

"We are often their only hope, so we must do whatever it takes to rescue animals who desperately need us and stop their suffering.”

The organisation shared some of the stories of animals it had rescued during Christmas last year. 

Eight-year-old Jack Russell terrier Penny was dumped on a railway station platform. She was covered in scabs and suffering from a horrific eye infection that her blind. 

She was taken to a vets on December 4, 2020. 

RSPCA inspector Jen Wildman – who rescued Penny – said: “A woman told vets she’d seen the little terrier being left at the train station by a woman who then jumped onto a train and left the platform. 

“We believe Penny had spent her whole life as a puppy factory, churning out puppy after puppy. I suspect she’s never known real love or life as a proper pet; until now. 

"She was in such a state: her whole body was covered in sore scabs and scrapes, and she had awful infections in both ears and eyes.”

Despite an investigation, no one was ever traced in connection with Penny’s case. 
Ten-year-old German Shepherd cross mastiff Molly Moo was found wandering the streets of Birmingham by West Midlands Police, who took her to the RSPCA.

Inspector Stephen Lee, who launched an investigation, said: “Poor Molly-Moo was in such a sorry state and looked so sad; when you looked in her eyes she seemed broken, like she’d given up hope. It was devastating.

“Molly was wandering along a busy, dangerous road and I believe she’d been dumped there by someone like rubbish. She was incredibly emaciated with bones protruding and had a bad, untreated skin condition.”

Molly was chipped and officers managed to trace her original owners but it turned out she’d been stolen from their garden six years earlier and they were now unable to take her back.

Both Molly Moo and Penny are now in loving homes.

To join the Christmas Rescue and help the RSPCA rescuers be there for the animals in need this winter, visit