While families across England and Wales sat down to enjoy their Christmas dinner and open presents, RSPCA staff up and down the country were rescuing animals in need and ensuring those in our care were warm, well-fed and feeling loved.
Assistant director of the RSPCA inspectorate Dermot Murphy said: “The RSPCA’s dedicated staff and volunteers work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - everything doesn’t grind to a halt for us just because it’s Christmas.
“Sadly, there are always animals that need us over the festive period and there are also thousands in our care who need looking after, so it’s business as usual for our amazing staff and our wonderful volunteers - true animal heroes.”
The charity received 16,118 calls over the Christmas period (from December 18 to December 27) and rescued a total of 10,515 animals, including 2,417 who had been abandoned.
Just one of the 1,357 calls the RSPCA received on Boxing Day came from a man who had found a rabbit (pictured) who had been dumped in a pet carrier with some brussel sprouts and hay, outside his home, on Christmas Day.
Inspector Caroline Richardson was called to Willow Walk, in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, to collect the rabbit. The caller kept the bunny overnight before alerting the charity.
Inspector Richardson collected the young adult, now named Stuffing, and, as he wasn’t injured or sick, she took him home to stay with her until a space is available in the local RSPCA centre.
She said: “He has spent the last few days hopping around my house, he follows me everywhere! He’s really sweet.”
On Christmas Day, inspector Rachel Smith was on duty responding to emergencies when she was called to help a deer tangled in netting in Coniston Road, Kings Langley, in Hertfordshire, just one of the 827 calls we received on 25 December.
A woman spotted the distressed deer, with her back legs caught in the football net, and alerted the RSPCA.
Inspector Smith said: “This poor little doe couldn’t keep up with Dancer, Prancer and the rest of Santa’s gang as she got tangled in the netting.
“Thankfully, I was able to cut her free and - as she wasn’t injured - released her back into the wild where she belongs.”
Meanwhile on Christmas Day, at Garden village near Gorseinon, in Swansea, inspector Neill Manley was called to rescue a sheep that got entangled in fencing.
The poor sheep had got her fleece caught up in the barbed wire and brambles but, luckily, was spotted by parents of children in a nearby playground who called the RSPCA for help.
Inspector Manley rushed to the scene and carefully cut the sheep free using wire cutters. She was unharmed so she was released to join the rest of her flock.
As children across the country prepared mince pies for Santa and laid out carrots for his reindeer to celebrate Christmas Eve, it was a busy day of work for inspector Daniel Hatfield who was called to rescue a tortoisehell cat stuck in a tree on the outskirts of Bristol.
“The owners of the property had noticed a cat stuck in a tree at the entrance to their driveway,” inspector Hatfield said.
“The fire service helped to rescue the cat - called Fawn - and thankfully she was returned to her owners who were very pleased to have her home for Christmas.
“She’d been missing for three days so she could have been trapped in the tree for all that time.”
Meanwhile on Christmas Eve, in Milton Keynes, inspector Susan Haywood was called to Huntley Crescent to rescue a bearded dragon abandoned in a suitcase. Luckily, a member of the public was able to take the reptile to safety and inspector Haywood collected the lizard on Christmas Day before taking him into care.
The call was one of 1,361 that the RSPCA received on 24 December.
Just five days before Christmas, on 20 December, inspector Dale Grant was called to Queens Walk in Ruislip, west London, after a man found two cats in a pet carrier dumped on his doorstep.
The one-year-old cats - one black puss and one black and white - were taken to RSPCA Middlesex North West branch where they will be cared for over the festive period. The pair, now named Yule and Noel, were not microchipped so, unless their owners come forward to claim them, they will look for new homes in the New Year.
Also on 20 December, but some 120 miles away in Nottingham, four tiny kittens were found at a construction site in Arkright Walk by a builder during demolition work.
The lucky little four-week-old cats were rescued by inspector Susan Hammond and taken in by the RSPCA’s Derby branch where a receptionist is giving them around-the-clock care and bottle-feeding little Digger, Roley, Pilchard and Dizzy.
A few days earlier, on 17 December, one little pig gave RSPCA inspector Lyndsey Taylor the run-around in Accrington, Lancashire, after being spotted in the garden of a care home.
With the help of animal welfare officer Gail Platt and inspector Jason Bowles, they managed to capture the kune kune pig, who has been named Stanley, and - after arranging a transport licence - moved him to a private boarding facility nearby where he’ll wait for a new home.
The RSPCA is a charity and we rely on public donations to exist. To assist our inspectors in carrying out their vital work please text HELP to 78866 to give £3 (Texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message).