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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Sharp increase in unwanted pets
Cats are the most unwanted pets, says the RSPCA.
The number of unwanted pets taken in by an animal charity in England and Wales has surged over the last year.

Two years ago, 6,500 pets were left with the RSPCA. That figure rose by more than 40% last year to 9,500.

Cats were the most unwanted pets - almost 3,000 were rescued, more than double the number of unwanted dogs.

The charity says it is shocked at having to deal with so many animals simply because their owners no longer want them.

Celebrity backing

Andy Foxcroft, chief officer of RSPCA inspectorate, said: "We rescue a staggering number of animals from a wide range of difficult, distressing and often surprising situations each year.

"But what strikes me particularly about our latest figures is the huge number of animals we rescue simply because their owners no longer want them."

He said he hoped that the new Animal Welfare Act, which means owners in England are legally obliged to care for their pet, would help to reduce the number of unwanted pets.

An RSPCA spokesman said the rise could have been due to the organisation improving its data recording systems, or because the act had made owners think more carefully about their ability to look after animals.

RSPCA director general Jackie Ballard told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There's been more publicity in the last year about the need for responsible pet ownership because of the Animal Welfare Act, and people are behaving irresponsibly when they decide: 'Actually, I can't look after this animal.'

"And they're dumping it somewhere rather than taking it to a rescue centre and it does concern us."

David Grant, the director of the RSPCA's Harmsworth Hospital, told the BBC some of the animals were in a shocking condition.

He described how they were "near to death sometimes".

"Other times they're frightened, hungry, dehydrated. You name it, we see it," he said.

The figures were released at the start of RSPCA week (23-29 April) - the charity's largest annual fundraising drive.

Comedian and cat owner Ricky Gervais is backing the campaign.

He said: "The RSPCA works round the clock rescuing thousands of animals every year and gives them the chance of a new life, but to carry on they need your help.

"Dig deep during RSPCA Week and give whatever you can to help your local branch help more animals in need."

Abandoned cats at the RSPCA

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