A LEADING animal charity is getting ready for a ‘massive surge’ in abandoned animals across Oxfordshire.

The RSPCA fears that the fallout from the coronavirus crisis could see more owners struggling to care for their pets.

The organisation typically records an abandonment peak in the summer months.

In Oxfordshire alone, it received 205 reports about dumped animals last year.

This includes four abandoned kittens who were discovered in a cardboard box in Oxford.

They were taken into the care in one of RSPCA's shelters where they were fostered, before being found new homes.

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However, this year the RSPCA is braced for an even bigger impact following the easing of lockdown measures and the financial impact of the pandemic.

The charity launched an emergency appeal for donations to continue its vital rescue work.

Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, said this year has been the 'toughest yet'.

He issued a heartfelt message to animal-lovers: "During lockdown we have seen pets become a source of comfort and support for people and it appears many people have taken on new animals.

"Fortunately during this time we have dealt with fewer abandoned animals.

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"However, we are worried that as lockdown eases, people return to work, go on holidays or struggle financially, we will be facing a massive surge of animal abandonment."

Since March the RSPCA has received reports about 3,492 abandoned animals.

Workers answered about 40 calls a day and dealt with reports of 1,509 dogs, 1,165 cats, 299 small animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs and ferrets and 275 exotic pets.

Mr Murphy continued: "Sadly summer tends to bring with it a surge in abandoned animals.

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"We do not know why.

"It may be a combination of the warmer weather making people feel less guilty about dumping a pet to fend for themselves and people going away on holiday and abandoning their pets instead of arranging care for them."

Between June and August last year, 16,519 animals were reported abandoned to the RSPCA.

The staggering number accounted for 30 per cent of all abandoned animals reported in that year.

Mr Murphy also urged pet owners to 'ask for help' from friends and family instead of dumping them on the streets.

He said: "Animals have been there to help us through the crisis, please do not abandon them now."

To make a donation to the animal charity visit www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/donate/online