SHOCKING new figures show animal abandonments have risen by almost 20 per cent in Dorset amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.

The RSPCA said it is on course to receive 204 reports of animal abandonments in the county this year- up 19.4 per cent compared to 2020.

Now the animal welfare charity has issued a dire warning and says it is “desperately concerned” about what the winter months hold.

Dermot Murphy, who heads the RSPCA frontline rescue teams, said: “The combined effects of the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis has created a perfect storm - and means we expect more animals than ever will need our help this year.

"Abandonment calls to our emergency line are now at a three-year high, as we respond to an increasing number of animals being given up and dumped.

“Behind these shocking statistics are thousands of vulnerable animals. Each one is a valuable life in urgent need of our help.”

He added: “We’re desperately concerned about the coming winter months in Dorset - abandonments have soared and many rescue centres are full to bursting, so we are facing an unprecedented winter crisis.

“Our rescue teams are set to be busier than ever this Christmas - so we need animal lovers to join the Christmas rescue and donate to help us be there for animals in desperate need as neglect and abandonment soars.”

Up to the end of October, the RSPCA has received 17,838 reports of abandoned animals across England and Wales.

It said if this trend continues, it would equate to 21,417 reports over 2023.

This compares with 16,118 reports during the whole of 2020, meaning the RSPCA is on course to see a 32.9 per cent rise in abandonment calls this year.

This is up from 17,179 reports in 2021 and 19,645 in 2022.

Dermot said: “For nearly 200 years, the RSPCA has been working tirelessly to bring animals to safety and give them the expert treatment and compassion they deserve.

“We’ll continue to do so for as long as we’re needed but we can’t do that without the support of fellow animal lovers. Together, we could save more lives.”

This year the RSPCA is asking supporters to Join the Christmas Rescue by donating to help rescue teams reach the thousands of animals who desperately need them.