A litter of abandoned puppies are being cared for by an animal welfare charity after being found at the side of a road in Co Armagh.
The six-week-old German Shepherd puppies were described as trembling when they were discovered by a member of the public at a gateway on the side of a country road in South Armagh.
They are now being cared for by the USPCA.
The litter is one of several instances of animal abandonment reported by the USPCA as they reopened on Wednesday following the Christmas break.
Colleen Tinnelly, USPCA development manager, said one of the puppies was critically ill, and expressed disappointment at the young dogs being left to fend for themselves particularly in wet and windy conditions.
She said it was too early to say if all five of the puppies would survive their ordeal.
“We are dismayed that despite numerous pleas to the public regarding responsible pet ownership, we are still seeing defenceless young animals being abandoned by a busy and dangerous roadside, only days after Christmas,” she said.
“Following examination from our veterinary team, the five abandoned puppies are undergoing treatment – unfortunately one is currently in a critical condition.
“We don’t know how long they were left outside exposed to the wet and windy weather conditions, but we are very grateful to the member of the public for rescuing them from a dire situation.
“We really hope all puppies will be able to make a full recovery, but it is still very early to say.
“We urge the public to think long and hard about their pets – are they neutered? Are you capable of looking after an unexpected litter? If not, we remind them to think as a responsible owner and have their pets neutered – there is absolutely no excuse for leaving young animals to suffer because you haven’t made this conscious decision.”
Ms Tinnelly said the charity had also taken a higher level of calls from members of the public about giving up their pets.
She said animal shelters across Northern Ireland were operating at capacity.
“Unfortunately, in the months after Christmas we do brace ourselves for an increase in unwanted animals and we try to accommodate as many as we can,” she said.
“Never have we seen cases like this so quick on the back of Christmas, we’re shocked and very disappointed that it continues to happen.
“Our advice on responsible pet ownership is clear – an animal is not a toy; it is a lifetime commitment and doesn’t come with a return policy.”