RSPCA’s Christmas film shows how pets have been a lifeline during difficult year

The RSPCA has launched its Christmas video with a moving story showing how pets have helped tackle loneliness and isolation during a tough year.

The heart-warming film, which features Backstreet Boys’ hit As Long As You Love Me, touches on the difficulties many have faced in recent months, following the story of an elderly man who is feeling lonely and isolated during the Coronavirus pandemic, after losing his wife and his dog.

Viewers watch as his loneliness is mirrored by an abandoned dog, real-life rescue Storm, who finds himself alone, out in the cold until he is rescued by the RSPCA.

The film’s uplifting ending sees the man contact the RSPCA and get matched with Storm, bringing him home in time to introduce his new companion to family and friends on Zoom at Christmas.

The festive video, made entirely in-house by the RSPCA’s broadcast team, shows how pets can help tackle loneliness and improve our mental health.

An RSPCA poll carried out by YouGov revealed that 45% of all pet owners surveyed said their pets have helped their mental health during lockdown. A recent study carried out by the Universities of Lincoln and York also found that having a pet helped people maintain better mental health during lockdown. More than 90% of the 6,000 participants said their pet had helped them cope emotionally.

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA, said: “We all know that pets make fantastic companions but to know that not only do they help tackle loneliness but can also improve our mental health is truly amazing! It’s therefore no surprise that during what has been a particularly tough year, we have seen a huge surge in people interested in adopting pets. We know how important it is that people think ahead and make sure they can give a pet a loving home for life, just like Storm and his new owner in the film.

“We hope this Christmas video will tug on people’s heartstrings and show people how rewarding it is to adopt from the RSPCA. We expect to rescue thousands of animals in need this winter and we can’t do that without the generous support of our fellow animal lovers so we hope this touching film will also encourage supporters to donate to the RSPCA and help us continue our vital work.”

Singer and RSPCA press officer Lucy Ellie Cooper recorded a cover of ‘As Long As You Love Me’ by the Backstreet Boys for the film, and the video was created by in-house broadcast team Alan Laxton and Lewis Jones.

The real Christmas film stars

Canine star of the film Storm was rescued by the RSPCA during the first lockdown back in March. He came into the care of RSPCA Stubbington Ark after his previous owners could no longer care for him. Storm was incredibly overweight and was put on a strict diet before being adopted by RSPCA press officer Amy Ockelford, who also stars in the film.

David Underhill from Storrington, West Sussex, plays the human star of the Christmas video. His daughter works for the RSPCA and David kindly volunteered his time for free.

The festive Zoom call features well-known faces Inspector Herchran Boal and Inspector Anthony Joynes from the RSPCA’s programme Dog Rescuers. Herchy is featured with her two rescue dogs Loki and Murphy and Anthony with his son Caleb.

Also on the Zoom call, is Head of Media Catherine Peerless and her two children Robyn and Wren, as well as Hewitt Grant, Head of Property at the RSPCA, and his children Dante and Aria.