The RSPCA is urging animal owners to follow urgent advice to keep pets, livestock and wildlife safe after widespread flooding following the latest storm.

Dorset severely hit by severe rain and winds which flooded businesses and closed roads.

 The animal charity is calling on people to take action to ensure the welfare of animals as rising water levels take a toll on the natural habitats of wild fowl and other wildlife.

Outdoor animals are particularly at risk from the floods and RSPCA officers have been called to dozens of incidents in recent days including helping horses trapped in a field off the A31 in Dorset where the water level had submerged the animals to chest height.

RSPCA inspectorate commissioner Dermot Murphy said: “It’s really important we help our animal friends get through this latest spell of bad weather, which has led to widespread flooding.

“We have lots of helpful advice and tips available for people to make sure their pets and local wildlife are kept safe.

“In areas affected by flooding owners should be looking to bring small animals inside and move them upstairs, while livestock should be taken up to higher ground with enough supplies for their needs.

“Wild animals can also struggle in stormy weather but people can help them too. For example, they can leave some extra food out for hungry birds above ground level and even provide shelter for ground-nesting birds.”

Animal owners are advised to keep an eye on local forecasts and check for warnings. In areas impacted by flooding they should: • Move livestock to high ground and keep a supply of food and water in case of evacuation.

• Bring small pets inside and move bedding and food to a dry spot.

• Ensure cats have constant access to a warm indoor area and keep dogs inside and if they are out, away from rising waters in lakes and rivers.

• If there is a need to evacuate a property then take pet food, bowls, bedding and any necessary pet medication.

• Transport small pets in suitable carriers and dogs on sturdy leashes.

• If animals have to be left behind in a property keep them upstairs room with plenty of food and water and leave notices on doors.

• Ensure there are contact numbers for emergencies.

If the worst does happen and if flooding does leave animals in danger, members of the public should be careful not to take risks with their own safety by attempting animal rescues.

It is best to leave that to the experts. The RSPCA’s trained officers are equipped to deal with flood-stricken animals and work as part of Defra’s National Flood Response to help rescue stranded animals.

If you do see an animal that looks like it is in danger, take a note of the location, the time and date and consult the RSPCA’s website for emergency advice or call the emergency line 0300 1234 999.

For flooding advice and up-to-date warnings ring Floodline on 0345 988 1188.