6,000 pets abandoned in 2006

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Almost 6,000 animals were abandoned by their owners during the last 12 months, the RSCPA has claimed.

The animal welfare charity says that the 5,959 total represents a 44 per cent increase on 2005's figure, with more than 3,000 unwanted cats being rescued in the last year alone – despite more households in Britain owning a cat than any other domestic animal.

As the RSCPA begins its annual weeklong fundraising drive, it says that overall it rescued 150,000 domestic, wild and farm animals from dangerous of distressing situations in 2006.

The majority of animal rescues were down to sickness or injury, while RPSCA wardens received more calls for wild birds in distress than any other animal.

Award-winning comedian and cat owner Ricky Gervais is among those supporting the RSPCA in its awareness week.

The star of the Office 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."

Andy Foxcroft, the chief officer of the RSPCA inspectorate, explained that the one million plus calls that staff responded to in 2006 were indicative of the level of financial backing needed.

"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.

"With the new Animal Welfare Act now in force - which means owners are legally obliged to find out about their pet's particular needs and care for it properly - we really hope more people will consider the full responsibility they are taking on before getting an animal," Mr Foxcroft continued.

"Hopefully this will mean the RSPCA rescuing fewer unwanted animals."

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