Rescue centres across Scotland have reached capacity after thousands of animals were left neglected during lockdown.
The Scottish SPCA received more than 136,000 calls last year, with staff responding to 214 incidents each day and saving almost 78,000 animals.
A total of 3,369 animals were successfully rehomed – but more than 7,000 wild creatures were admitted to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre in 2020 and space is now scarce at the site.
The charity’s chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, said that despite the organisation’s efforts, animals continue to suffer due to deliberate or misguided neglect from owners.
He said: “Our centres have hit capacity and we desperately need the support of the animal-loving Scottish public so that they don’t let animals suffer.
“In many cases, neglect is not deliberate.
“Even people who love their animals can find themselves in a position where they are unable to continue to provide them with the care they need.
“This could be a change in personal circumstance or an accident. The decision can be heart-breaking but ultimately it is the right one for the welfare of that animal. It is admirable to put an animal’s needs first.”
A surge in demand for dogs during lockdown also led to an increase in raids and seizures of pups from low-welfare puppy farms and dealers.
The charity’s special investigations unit has been inundated with reports of low-welfare breeders across the country.
More than 750 calls were made to the Scottish SPCA last year regarding illegal breeders, leading to the launch of more 350 probes by their special investigations unit.
A total of 150 puppies were seized from the low welfare puppy trade during this period, with many dying before they could find a loving home.
A £2,500 fundraiser, established by the charity, has now generated more than £1,700 in donations in their fight against the illegal trade.
Earlier this month, Mr Flynn raised awareness of this growing crisis and how “master manipulators” were putting “financial gain over animal welfare”.
He said: “We are being overwhelmed with reports of sick and dying pups because the public continues to fuel the low-welfare puppy trade.
“These dealers are master manipulators and will use any means necessary to sell you that pup. They are using the pandemic as an excuse to drop the pup to you.
“We need the public to help us tackle this abhorrent industry. As long as public demand exists then pups will still become sick and die because these bad breeders put financial gain over animal welfare.”
During the pandemic, the charity cared for more than 1,300 animals seeking temporary refuge which includes those involved in legal proceedings – with 317 animals caught up in court cases.
Highland hound finds forever home
A north family have spoken of how their life has changed immensely after providing a forever home to a highland pup.
Jessie the Lurcher was one of 10 dogs placed into the care of Scottish SPCA’s Caithness and Sutherland Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre amidst the pandemic.
Her previous owners were forced to sign their dogs over to the charity after becoming overwhelmed by the number of animals they were caring for.
Keepers at the Caithness centre worked day and night to bring the nervous pup out of her shell in preparation for finding her a forever home.
Owner Stefan Teufl said: “It’s only been two months but we can’t imagine life without her.
“We were actually there visiting another dog at the centre the day Jessie was brought back.
“We agreed to meet her and we fell in love immediately.
“Jessie came over to us straight away and we took turns walking her up and down the enclosure.
“Apparently she took to us really quickly which the staff were surprised with as she had trouble bonding with people, especially males but she seemed really happy with me.”
“She came home with us that day due to the bond the team recognised,” Mr Teufl added.
“It was a bit of a baptism of fire as Jessie was our first dog, we had previously been cat people.
“She really has changed our lives. Her personality is so gentle.
“She is happy to go on walks but loves to lounge on the couch being cuddled. When I’m working on my laptop, she will climb up and sit on my lap! It’s just limbs everywhere.”
The pair connected at the Caithness Rescue Centre after Jessie was returned from her first foster home.
Mr Teufl said their connection with Jessie was instant despite her trepidation in the initial few days.
However, with some tender love and care, he said Jessie is now living her best life.
He said: “Jessie was quite nervous for the first wee while. We think she thought we would take her back to the rehoming centre but now she has no issues going out in the car or leaving the house.
“She has also learned so much in such a short time. She is currently learning how to push the treat leaver, give a paw, heel and lie down. Jessie is very clever and has picked up everything really fast.
“We are completely in love with her and we thank our lucky stars we visited the centre that day.”
Mr Flynn appealed for the public to lend their support to help save the lives and give animals like Jessie a second chance at life.
He added: “We will continue to be here for every person and animal, like Jessie, that needs us in all communities across Scotland.
“Every single person who signs up to support us with a monthly donation will be making an impact and will allow us to rescue animals like Jessie.”