Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

'Unwanted' pet numbers increasing

A dog at the RSPCA shelter
People are "facing hard times", the RSPCA said

A branch of an animal-welfare charity in west London has been inundated with a "surprisingly" high number of unwanted pets before Christmas.

An 8ft (2.4m) boa constrictor, two donkeys, nine cats and six dogs have been among the 35 animals given to the RSPCA shelter in Hillingdon.

Pre-Christmas "clear-outs" of homes were one reason given for the rise.

And receiving the snake was "a bit of a shock" as he had been placed in a holdall, spokeswoman Liz Sheppee said.

"Sid came into us on Wednesday," she told BBC London.

"A guy turned up and said he'd had him seven years.

"He didn't want him any more and promptly gave him to us in a holdall bag."

Also among the animals brought to the shelter in the past week have been 10 hens, a rooster and a duck.

Hens at the RSPCA shelter
Ten hens, a rooster and a duck were among the animals taken to the shelter

A horse, three guinea pigs and a hamster were also donated.

Ms Sheppee said pet owners often had "genuine" reasons to give away their animals, but there was no single explanation for the recent increase.

"I feel that people are facing hard times now, and we're having more animals in for that reason.

"And I think a lot of people try to clear out for Christmas.

"With friends and families coming round, they want to get the house neat and tidy, and sometimes the animals just don't fit in with that."

The charity said it was keen to hear from people who could provide good homes to the animals in its care.

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