AN ANIMAL rescue charity is bracing itself for the busiest Christmas yet, with fears the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic could mean a rise in pets being abandoned and neglected in Dorset.

Last year, the RSPCA dealt with 780 incidents in Dorset across the winter period - December, January, February - with 249 incidents in December alone. This year the RSPCA is concerned that more people may struggle to care for their pets due to the financial pressures of the pandemic, leading to even more animals being abandoned or neglected.

With more pressure being put on the charity's rescue teams than ever before, it is asking supporters to join the Christmas rescue by donating to help rescue teams reach the thousands of animals who desperately need them.

Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, said: “Christmas may be different for many people this year but for the RSPCA, our teams will be working day in, day out, as usual, rescuing, caring and rehabilitating those animals who need us the most. Last year, we rescued thousands of animals over the winter months and we fear that due to the pandemic, we could be facing our toughest Christmas yet as we are braced for a rise in abandoned and neglected animals needing our help.”

Last winter more than 7,000 animals were taken in by the RSPCA and the charity received more than 204,000 calls over the winter period.

Throughout December 2019, the charity dealt with more than 20,000 incidents and took 2,587 more animals into its care, including 558 dogs, 1,416 cats, 149 rabbits, and 167 wildlife.

Mr Murphy added: “It’s been a tough year for everyone, including charities, so now more than ever we need your help to continue our vital work saving animals and giving them a voice.

“Our frontline teams are out throughout the winter but they cannot do this alone, which is why the RSPCA has launched its Join the Christmas Rescue campaign to show how we can all help animals. From our animal rescuers, hospital and centre staff, and our volunteers to every supporter who picks up the phone to call us when an animal is in need, or donates to help us continue our work - every one of us is vital to make sure we can rescue the animals who need us the most.”

The charity said that donating £25 could help keep the animal rescue teams on the road and £50 could help feed all the rescued animals in one of the charity's centres for a day.

To help the RSPCA this winter, visit www.rspca.org.uk/xmas.