In 2022, the charity said, 711 puppies and breeding female dogs were abandoned, up from 411 in 2021. The pre-Covid figure in 2019 was 275 dumped puppies. In recent weeks, the RSPCA has rescued a total of 3,260 animals abandoned since November 1 a 14 per cent increase on the same time the year before.

The rescued dogs include six American bulldogs dumped in a box in Hull, which were covered in cuts and scratches. Some 3.2million households in the UK bought pets during the Covid lockdown as a way to combat social isolation, treat the family or boost exercise.

But sales declined after restrictions were lifted, leading to a surplus of puppies. Now the animal charity has blamed the sharp rise in the number of puppies being abandoned on this sales slump as callous breeders dump the extra dogs no one wants to buy.

Rescuers suggested they had been kept in a cage since birth, and two were in such poor condition they died before being seen by a vet. The four surviving puppies, which were around 12 weeks old, are now being cared for at the RSPCA’s York Animal Home.

The charity also rescued three underweight and neglected spaniel puppies left in a cardboard box by the B4696 in Wiltshire. RSPCA officer Freya Lamb, who rescued the trio now called Mary, Holly and Rudey, said: ‘They are very nervous and scared.’

Another five American bulldog pups were dumped in a remote layby near Yarm, North Yorkshire, by two masked men. The dogs were covered in their own faeces and one had to be put down. The charity has launched a fundraising campaign called Join The Winter Rescue and has committed £1.5million to crisis measures including helping pet food banks and struggling owners.

Dermot Murphy, RSPCA inspectorate commissioner, said: ‘Our teams have seen families who simply cannot afford to feed both themselves and the pets. Others have been helping families facing eviction who can’t find accommodation that allows pets. ‘We really need animal-lovers to help us get through this crisis.’

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