ANIMAL shelters across East Lancashire are preparing themselves for the ‘aftermath of Christmas’ — but say there is no room at the inn.

RSPCA bosses say every year they see a large number of cats and dogs dumped and abandoned after the festive season when owners realise how much time and money they require.

Chief Inspector Cathy Hyde, who oversees the RSPCA shelters in Lancashire, said: “We are bracing ourselves for the aftermath.

“We normally see an influx at the end of January and into February when the puppies and kittens aren’t as cute and the owners realise that they take up lots of time and money to care for.

For many, they lose their novelty value.

“The figures have definitely increased throughout the year because of the recession. In previous years, it used to be animals like cats and dogs but now we are seeing an increase in the number of horses, rabbits and reptiles.

“We have more animals in our care than we have ever had in the past. Although we do everything we can to rehome animals that are fit and well, it’s not always possible. We are also getting more requests from pet owners to help treat their sick pets and pay for vet treatment. Because money is tight, pet insurance is normally one of the first things to go. All charities are affected by the recession.

"And now, when we are needed more than ever, our resources are being spread even more thinly.”

Steve Carpenter, deputy manager at the Altham RSPCA branch, said: “We tend to get young dogs that were puppies at Christmas brought into the shelter around March when they start chewing things.”

He said around 80 per cent of the dogs that need re-homing are ‘bull’ breeds —such as staffordshire bull terrier, bull mastiff and boxer crosses.

“Lots of people are giving them up, but not many are rehoming them. The cat population is out of control. We can’t keep up with the demand for new homes.”

He also said there had been a large increase in the number of stray rabbits needing new homes — rising from 17 in 2011 to 53 this year.