1. ITV Report

Cruelty at Christmas: a heartfelt appeal from the RSPCA in the South West

The RSPCA's animal cruelty hotline received nearly 4000 calls from the South West last December. Credit: ITV West Country

The RSPCA says it received more than 3,800 calls from the South West to its animal cruelty hotline last December.

On Christmas day alone the animal welfare charity's West Hatch Centre in Somerset looked after 146 pets and wild animals.

It has now launched a 2018 Christmas appeal, asking for donations to help provide vital care for neglected, abused and suffering animals this festive season.

Christmas is a particularly busy time of year for the animal welfare charity, with families under extra financial pressures. Credit: ITV West Country

The West Hatch Animal Centre in Taunton says it had more than 200 seals in its care throughout last year's winter period - the highest they have ever received.

Christmas is always a particularly busy time for the charity because of extra financial pressures on families. It says that staff often see a knock-on effect for pets.

The charity see animals dumped every year and hope their Christmas appeal will help prevent more animals suffering. Credit: ITV West Country

Jenny Ride, RSPCA inspector, said: "If you get to the point where you can't afford your pet, whether it be food or veterinary care, then that's ultimately what we're there for - to provide support and a place for that animal."

She continued: "It's not responsible to dump cats and kittens in boxes. We get it every year and you're not giving them a fighting chance particularly in this weather of a) being found or b) getting the home that they need, really."

Members of the public are being asked to donate goods to the RSPCA to help them care for desperate animals this Christmas. Credit: ITV West Country

This year people can donate gifts to desperate animals via the RSPCA's website.