The UK's leading animal welfare charity is preparing to deal with "heartbreaking cruelty and neglect" this Christmas.

The RSPCA has launched its annual Kindness at Christmas appeal after it received a shocking 11,498 reports of animal neglect and cruelty in London alone during the previous festive period.

The calls were received by concerned members of the public throughout December 2016 and January 2017, and 381 reported incidents happened across Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Over the same two months the charity dealt with 118,799 calls nationwide - an equivalent of 1,916 calls a day.

Christmas abuse is a "sad fact"

From unwanted pets callously dumped on the streets to wildlife deliberately cruelly treated, RSPCA says its inspectors are preparing to see heartbreaking cruelty and neglect this festive season.

The animal welfare charity expects to take in around 19,000 animals in need this December and January, and desperately needs your help to care for them.

RSPCA superintendent Simon Osborne said: "It’s a sad fact that every day at work throughout the year can be tough for our inspectors and animal welfare and collection officers, but winter really does come with its own challenges and issues.

"In fact, we expect to take in somewhere in the region of 19,000 animals this winter alone.

"During the festive season alone last year, we rescued more than 25,000 animals, many of whom had been cruelly abandoned, injured or abused.

"But we also saw so many acts of kindness by animal lovers, from the passer-by who rescued a shivering and sick puppy days before Christmas, to those who reported suffering animals to our cruelty hotline or volunteers caring for animals in our centres and branches.

"We are asking animal lovers across the country to show kindness this Christmas by supporting our winter appeal."

The appeal has come along with important advice to members of the public when giving pets as Christmas presents.

'A firefighter's kiss will put a smile on the longest of faces': Horse, 33, rescued by firefighters after Northwood ditch fall

Pets as presents

A spokesman said: "The RSPCA does not advise the giving of pets as presents unless it is known that the person receiving the pet is willing to take on the responsibility of having a pet, can afford to do so and can give them everything they need to be happy and healthy throughout their life.

"We would urge anyone thinking of purchasing a pet, whatever the time of year to consider the long-term commitment required to properly care for an animal. People need to take into account whether they have the time and money to care for that pet for the rest of its life.

"Christmas in particular can be a busy and hectic time for many households. Unusual noise, activities and extra demands upon the household can make it difficult for any pet to settle into their new homes so it is not always the best time to introduce them into the household.

"However, for some people, the festive period is a calm, quiet time and may well be a good opportunity to introduce an animal into the home as families tend to be around the house with more time to spend with them.

"If you are confident that you can meet a pet's needs, then please consider visiting your local RSPCA centre or branch to pick out a pet that best suits your lifestyle."

Keep up to date with the latest news in west London via the free getwestlondon app.

You can set up your app to see all the latest news and events from your area, plus receive push notifications for breaking news.

Available to download from the App Store or Google Play for Android .