Six sick puppies were dumped in a bucket and left on a doorstep days before Christmas.
A homeowner answered a knock on their door to find the pups abandoned in the cold in an orange bucket in Halebourne Lane, Chobham, Surrey.
RSPCA officials believe the dogs, thought to be lurchers aged around five weeks old, may have been bred to be sold as Christmas presents but dumped when they became ill.
The animals have parvovirus, a potentially deadly virus common among puppy-farmed dogs, and they have been named after some of Santa’s reindeers – Cupid, Dasher, Blitzen, Rudolf, Prancer and Dancer.
RSPCA inspector Rob Jackson said: “Someone knocked on a house door in Chobham before running off. When the house owners opened the door the puppies were on the doorstep in the bucket. It is just unbelievable.
“To dump an animal at any time of year is heartless but to do it just before Christmas is callous. It is quite possible they were bred to be sold as Christmas presents but were then dumped when they became ill.
“We may never know, but what is certain is that no animal deserves this kind of treatment. These poor pups are young and still very much dependent on their mum and, of course, human care.
“They were just left on that doorstep on a cold, wet winter’s day without a second thought.”
As the pups receive care at RSPCA Millbrook, Mr Jackson appealed for help to catch those who dumped the dogs who were abandoned on December 14.
Centre supervisor Claire Jones said: “This family of puppies are lurcher-types and they are all about five to six weeks old, and we imagine they are all from the same litter.
“It is so sad. I cannot even imagine why anyone would do that sort of thing, especially bearing in mind just how ill they are. These puppies needed urgent vet attention, but instead of taking them to a vet the person just left them on a doorstep.
“It was really cold and had the householder not answered the door or been in we don’t know how long they would’ve stayed there or what would’ve happened to them.
“At the moment the puppies are all still under vet treatment as they are very poorly. We are doing everything we can for them.”
The RSPCA said it has already investigated 1,137 abandonments across the country since the start of December. Anyone with information about the abandoned pups is asked to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999.