The RSPCA is asking pet lovers in the South Hams to support their 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 strict restrictions in place.

During the pandemic, pet ownership has surged. 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, the charity fears the increased stress and pressures will see a rise in abandonment, neglect and even abuse of animals.

In Devon there were 60 reports of animals being abandoned last winter - including 23 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.

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 they received over 50,000 calls to their Animal Rescue Line over the Christmas period.

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.

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. Some of the animals who were rescued by the RSPCA after being abandoned last Christmas have shared their stories as they look forward to a very different festive season is year in the loving care of their new adopted families.

To Join the Christmas Rescue and help the rescuers be there for the animals in need this winter you can visit