NEEDY animals face being turned away from shelters as the economic crisis hits animal welfare charities across the region.

A stark warning issued by the RSPCA describes animal welfare charities being stretched to breaking point as they are overwhelmed with animals abandoned by the public.

The RSPCA alone report a 65 per cent increase in animal abandonment over the last five years and attribute it to pet owners struggling financially as a result of the recession.

Leanne Plumtree, spokeswoman for RSPCA North, said: “We are always full, and the RSPCA on the whole is experiencing a very tough time indeed. Our capacity to take in animals is limited - we are a charity and our resources are not infinite.”

A number of the region’s animal welfare charities have echoed the RSPCA’s concerns, saying they have also faced an influx of abandoned animals as families battle to keep their heads above water in a tough economic climate.

A rise in housing problems appears to be a major contributing factor of the crisis with families forced to give up their pets due to downsizing or moving into rented accommodation following repossession.

Anne Prosser, from Saltburn Animal Rescue Association, said: “We are getting more and more requests from the public and top of the list is housing issues. It is awful. People break their hearts having to give up their pets and your heart aches for them.

"We do what we can. We always struggle for funding but we are keeping our heads above water and doing our best not to turn animals away.”

A spokeswoman for Save Our Strays, a dog rescue charity in Guisborough, confirmed they were facing an increase in demand and said: “As well as people struggling to find the money to pay vets bills, more people are losing houses and going into accommodation where dogs cannot be taken.”

A fall in public donations is also hitting charities hard. Ms Prosser said: “Although the public are extremely generous and do what they can, they are have having to watch their pennies more than they used to.”

The Save Our Strays spokeswoman added: “We are literally surviving hand to mouth. We will do anything to stay open and will always carry on because we put our hands into our own pockets to make sure we do.”