ANIMAL rescue officers at the RSPCA are braced for their toughest Christmas on record, as the financial strain from the Covid pandemic looks set to spell disaster for hundreds of pets across the county.

Last Christmas the RSPCA dealt with 249 incidents across Dorset, but this year animal welfare experts are concerned more people will struggle to care for their pets – meaning more pets will be abandoned or neglected.

Dermot Murphy, head of the RSPCA's animal rescue teams, said: "Christmas may be different for many people this year but for the RSPCA, our teams will be working day in, day out, as usual, rescuing, caring and rehabilitating those animals who need us the most.

"Last year, we rescued thousands of animals over the winter months and we fear that due to the pandemic, we could be facing our toughest Christmas yet as we are braced for a rise in abandoned and neglected animals needing our help."

Last year, the charity dealt with 780 incidents in Dorset during December, January and February. Just for December the total stood at 249.

Nationally, throughout last December, the charity dealt with more than 20,000 incidents and took 2,587 more animals into its care, including 558 dogs, 1,416 cats, 149 rabbits, and 167 wildlife.

Now the RSPCA is asking supporters to back its Join the Christmas Rescue campaign.

Mr Murphy said: "It’s been a tough year for everyone, including charities, so now more than ever we need your help to continue our vital work saving animals and giving them a voice.

"From our animal rescuers, hospital and centre staff, and our volunteers to every supporter who picks up the phone to call us when an animal is in need, or donates to help us continue our work – every one of us is vital to make sure we can rescue the animals who need us the most.”

Visit and Join the Christmas Rescue #JoinTheRescue for information.