Britons may have a reputation as animal-lovers but they are increasingly dumping their pets as they struggle to cope with the impact of economic downturn.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said the number of abandoned animals soared 57 per cent last year to 11,586 - the equivalent of more than 30 a day.
The number of abandoned cats was up by 50 per cent and a third more dogs were discarded, the charity said. Horses, farm animals and exotic pets were also being chucked out.
In addition to the actual numbers being thrown out, there had also been a 52 per cent rise in inquiries from the public looking to give up their pets.
Tim Wass, chief officer of the RSPCA inspectorate, said the cause was "everything to do with the economics about owning a pet" from paying for food to veterinary bills.
"It's a huge rise and I'm afraid that we can only point to economics to find a solution to the current problem," he told BBC radio.
"It's affecting pretty much every animal. We're really struggling to cope at the moment."
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Britain's best-known animal refuge centre, located in south London, said in December it was at bursting point after taking in more than a thousand more strays than it had done a year earlier.