Winter welfare crisis fears as rising abandonments cause concern for the RSPCA

The RSPCA has launched a Christmas appeal for help as the charity is braced for a surge of abandoned and neglected animals as pet ownership soared during lockdown.

Last December, the RSPCA still received one call every minute, one report of an abandoned animal every hour, and took 70 rescue animals into RSPCA care every day – despite England and Wales having strict restrictions in place.

During the pandemic, pet ownership has surged with estimates of more than 3.2m people taking on new pets*. With the return to work, the end of furlough and the worrying rise we are seeing in prices and energy bills as we get closer to Christmas, we fear the increased stress and pressures will see a rise in abandonment, neglect and even abuse of animals.

In Merseyside there were 103 reports of animals being abandoned last winter – including 37 in December.

Animal abandonment levels have risen to almost pre-pandemic levels and the charity fears this festive season could be even busier.

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.

He said: “Our frontline rescue teams are braced for the worst this Christmas. 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.”

Dermot 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.”

Last year we received over 50,000 calls to our Animal Rescue Line over the Christmas period. Animals like Molly Moo, a neglected ten-year-old German Shepherd cross dumped in a cold Birmingham street just days before Christmas last year. She had red raw skin and was so emaciated her bones stuck out.

The RSPCA rescuer who took her in said she was just ‘broken’. After six months of loving care, she was back to health and ready for a new home. Along came John Babbington and wife Joanne who took Molly Moo in and gave her a new lease of life. She is now facing a very different Christmas, happy in a loving new home.

Dermot added: “We will rescue dogs like Molly Moo this Christmas and help her but it will take everyone who cares about animals to respond to this Christmas emergency.  With almost no government funding, we rely entirely on donations to keep our rescue teams on the road. Please, however you choose to support us, animals urgently need your help this Christmas.  Our teams will be working day and night, doing whatever it takes to rescue every animal we can.  Join the rescue and together we can bring them to safety.”

Calls to the RSPCA’s Emergency Rescue Line passed pre-Covid levels for the first time in September showing return to normality and with it rising concerns about the welfare of animals.

With 3,004 abandonment incidents in England and Wales last winter 1,018 of those during the month of December alone, the charity fears that rising abandonment rates will see more animals facing a bleak winter.

Abandonments have risen by around 20% this year compared to 2020 figures during recent months and the charity is worried that soaring pet ownership during the pandemic could mean a surge of abandoned dogs and cats as people return to normal working life.

Dermot Murphy, Chief Inspectorate Officer, 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 RSPCA is the only charity with rescue teams out saving all types of neglected and abandoned animals across England and Wales this festive season.

It will cost £245 a day to keep a frontline rescuer on the road this Christmas -please Join the  Christmas Rescue and help bring them to safety.