Winter welfare crisis fears as rising abandonments cause concern for the RSPCA
Molly Moo: Happy at last
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 Lancashire there were 129 reports of animals being abandoned last winter – including 47 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 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.
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 this year in the loving care of their new adopted families.
An ex-breeding bitch who was dumped on a train station platform covered in sore scabs and suffering from a horrific eye infection that left her blind has now found her forever home and learned what love really is.
The eight-year-old Jack Russell terrier, who was named Penny by her rescuers, was taken into a vet clinic on 4 December 2020 after being dumped on a platform at the train station.
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.”
Jen rushed Penny to the charity’s Finsbury Park Animal Hospital in London where vets found her untreated eye infections had left her completely blind. Vet Aine Maguire treated Penny when she first came in.
Despite an investigation, no one was ever traced in connection with Penny’s case. The little dog spent weeks at the hospital where she had to have both eyes removed. After moving to the RSPCA’s Cotswolds Dogs and Cats Home for rehoming, Penny was adopted by Steph Lane, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
Christmas is looking a lot brighter for this little pooch this year. Stephanie said: “Penny will certainly be spoiled this Christmas; she’ll have her own little presents wrapped up under the tree and I’m sure she’ll get some special treats while we’re eating our lunch. She loves frozen peas so I expect I’ll sneak her some of those!
“Penny is the greatest Christmas gift I could have ever asked for; and I’m so glad that finally, after so many years of hardship and neglect, that, this year, Penny will finally spend Christmas surrounded by love.”
One animal rescued by the charity last winter was an elderly dog who had almost given up on life when she was abandoned on the cold streets just days before Christmas.
Ten-year-old German Shepherd cross mastiff, Molly Moo, was in a pitiful state when she was found wandering in Birmingham on 20 December last year. West Midlands Police found her and managed to catch her and take 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.
She was taken into the RSPCA’s Birmingham Animal Hospital for treatment and TLC. She was put on a special diet to help her put on weight and vets started to treat her skin condition. She spent six months with the staff rehabilitating and recovering until staff felt she was ready to find a loving new home.
It didn’t take long for fabricator welder John Bebbington from Leicester and his wife, Joanne, and 15-year-old stepson, Harry, to spot her photo online and fall in love.
John said: “We lost our Staffie after 13 years together and we weren’t really looking for another dog but, one day, we came across Molly-Moo’s photo online and we were all smitten. Her face just looked so sad and her story was heartbreaking. I’m glad she can’t talk because I don’t think I could face hearing what she’s been through. Our previous dog had 13 years of bliss and we felt we wanted to give Molly a good end of life.”
This Christmas will be a far cry from how the old pooch spent her last Christmas, in RSPCA care surrounded by love but still skinny, itchy, frightened and confused. This year, she’ll know what it feels like to have a full tummy, a soft healthy coat, and a loving family around her excitedly opening presents together.
GABRIEL AND ARTHUR
Two blind kittens who were rescued from a builders’ yard and were reunited in a ‘Christmas miracle’ last winter are now living the life in a wonderful new home with other special needs cats.
Ginger kitten Gabriel – named after the Christmas angel – was 14-weeks-old when he was found straying and rescued by the RSPCA just days before Christmas December 2020.
RSPCA Inspector Krissy Raine, who rescued him, said: “We believe poor Gabriel lost both of his eyes after having cat flu as a tiny kitten and that left him with empty eye sockets. After telling one of my colleagues about his story we realised she’d rescued another little kitten from the same area a few weeks before and that they were brothers.
“It was so wonderful to reunite them; it was a Christmas miracle. They instantly recognised each other and it was really heartwarming to know that they had each other again.”
Gabriel underwent surgery to stitch his eyes shut to prevent any possible future infections.
Ginger and white kitten Arthur had been rescued six weeks earlier from the same site and needed surgery to remove one of his eyes, which had been damaged by entropion, a painful condition where the eyelid turns inward and the eyelashes rub on the eye. Sadly, during surgery, vets found Arthur’s second eye was also damaged and they made the difficult decision to remove this eye too.
Staff at the RSPCA Cat Hub – which cared for the kittens – were concerned about how hard it might be to find a home for a pair of blind kittens together – but when experienced cat owner Helen Marritt and her family came forward, it was a match made in heaven.
Helen, Andy and 16-year-old daughter Willow fell in love with adopting special needs cats after taking on one-eyed Greebo, who had a broken leg.
The family are now looking forward to their first Christmas with eight cats and will be showering their new additions – Arthur and Gabriel – with lots of affection and fuss.
Another dog who will be enjoying a very different Chrstmas this year is Steve. After a long recovery, with many months of vet treatment and behaviour work, the lovely lurcher will be lapping up fuss and attention with his new family this festive season.
The young lurcher was found abandoned on a cold, dark night last Christmas. He’d been tied to a lamp post at a bus stop, clearly in pain with what turned out to be a badly broken right leg.
Steve was taken to RSPCA Finsbury Park Animal Hospital for emergency surgery, including two metal plates and a bone graft, before being moved to RSPCA Leybourne Animal Centre for expert rehabilitation and behavioural therapy after which he found a happy new home after being adopted by Suzi and Graham.
“He loves cuddles and toys,” said Suzi. “It’s like the puppyhood he missed out on is coming out. We’re grateful to everyone at the RSPCA who’s been involved in turning Steve’s life around. It’s really rewarding to adopt a dog who needs this kind of care. We couldn’t be happier – and there will be plenty of new toys under the tree for him this Christmas.”
To Join the Christmas Rescue and help our rescuers be there for the animals in need this winter, please visit www.rspca.org.uk/rescuexmas