RSPCA issue advice to keep animals safe this winter

As some parts of the UK experience the first snowfall of 2019, the RSPCA issue advice to help keep animals safe.

Following a mild December and start of the year, weather forecasters have predicted inclement weather is on its way.

As the Met Office forecast the coldest spell in winter so far, the RSPCA is urging people to ensure their animals are warm and safe.

The charity suggests getting prepared early to make sure your pets are happy and healthy – as well as helping wildlife to flourish during the winter months.

From animals left without shelter or adequate food and water, to those left with painful untreated injuries or illness, statistics show that 59,121 calls were made to the RSPCA emergency line last month, an increase of 5.9 per cent compared with December 2017.

RSPCA welfare expert, Dr Jane Tyson, said: “The RSPCA receives thousands of calls during the winter months but there are some simple steps we can all take to help the animals around us. This can include providing outdoor pets such as rabbits with lots of extra bedding to snuggle into and making sure cats have access to a warm, dry and safe place, checking ponds are not freezing over, and leaving food out for birds.”

Some of the more upsetting neglect cases that RSPCA has seen this winter include:

  • A terrier dumped in freezing temperatures on New Year’s Day in Durham with a skin condition rendering her completely bald.
  • A cat in Yorkshire who had to be rescued on Christmas Eve after crawling into a car engine for warmth.
  • Eight guinea pigs dumped between Christmas and New Year in a rural car park near Abergavenny in Wales.

As the temperature drops, the RSPCA advises keeping a closer eye on outdoor pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs. If the temperature starts to reach freezing, you may wish to consider moving your rabbit inside or into an outhouse, shed or unused garage.

If you have to leave them outside, you must provide them with lots of extra bedding, such as dust-free hay, and make sure their home is protected from adverse weather.

If you keep birds in aviaries, coops or runs, then you should also protect them from the cold weather. Bird housing should consist of both an outside and an inside area. During cold weather, birds will be much less likely to venture outside so the inside area should be large enough to be suitable as a permanent home for the birds.

Horses and livestock require extra time and care in the colder winter months. Ensure they have adequate shelter to escape adverse weather and be prepared to provide extra feed and good quality forage such as hay, as grass is often sparse. It is also important to check water troughs and buckets are clear of ice; these may need ice breaking several times a day.

If it is particularly wet and muddy, it is even more important than normal to regularly check horses’ hooves for problems such as loose shoes and legs for signs of mud fever. Owners should ensure horses always have access to a dry resting area out of the mud.

Give extra consideration to very young or old animals, animals that are sick and injured and less hardy breeds as they may need extra protection from the cold weather.

Animal lovers without pets can help the wildlife around us. Birds can struggle to find food during the winter months so, to help them stay strong over this period, you can leave out extra food for them.

You can feed them suitable seeds and grains like oats and sunflower seeds; cooked pasta or rice; boiled potatoes, cheese or uncooked unsalted bacon rind; grapes, raisins and sultanas; net-free fat or suet balls; apples, pears and soft fruits; insects such as mealworms or waxworms.

The RSPCA advise that if you spot an injured or an animal in distress you can ring the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999.