The RSPCA has been overwhelmed with callouts during the coronavirus pandemic as the charity is forced to care for the pets of older people who are in hospital.
The animal welfare and rescue organisation answered 442,344 calls and dealt with 106,676 incidents between March 24 and August 5 - averaging 790 incidents per day - according to data published yesterday (Monday).
This is despite working with fewer officers due to “furlough, shielding and ill health”, a spokesperson told The Telegraph.
The charity has now launched an emergency fundraising appeal and said that its frontline animal rescue and care teams have been “stretched to their limit” .
Among the problems is an increase in callouts to look after animals whose owners have been taken ill.
"As well as operating an emergency service, rescuing animals in need, RSPCA officers have also been collecting animals from the homes of people who have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19, who may not have anyone else to care for them while their owners are being treated,” a spokesperson said.
Rescuers were designated as key workers by the Government as soon as lockdown began, but the charity is primarily funded by voluntary donations and has experienced significant losses recently, coupled with extra demands on its resources.
There are currently 6,381 animals in the care of the RSPCA across England and Wales, which makes it the largest animal welfare charity in the UK.
Dermot Murphy, chief inspectorate officer, said that it had to “quickly and drastically” change its way of working in terms of how animals are rehomed and the personal protective equipment worn by workers.
He said: The priority for us during lockdown has been to continue to be there for those animals who need us - while also helping people who have been hit hard by the pandemic.
"Now, more than four months into lockdown, we've passed a milestone as we responded to our 100,000th incident and our staff are as busy as ever collecting abandoned animals, investigating complaints of cruelty, providing life-saving veterinary treatment to the sick and injured, and finding wonderful new homes for our residents.
"But to continue our vital work and to survive the huge impact this pandemic has had on the economy and, therefore, the charity sector, we really need your help. Please donate whatever you can spare at www.rspca.org.uk/covid."