One of Northern Ireland's leading animals charities has called on the public to think seriously about whether they should be buying dogs and horses as Christmas presents.
Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Antrim is seeking support after the team rescued a litter of collie cross puppies abandoned in the lead-up to the holidays. They were found on the side of the road in Downpatrick last week and are now being cared for by Crosskennan, Assisi and foster carers.
"It happens all the time," said Lyn Friel from Crosskennan. "It is unreal."
Every year, without fail, sanctuaries such as Crosskennan are inundated with abandoned and unwanted animals before and after Christmas.
A statement from the charity said: "We have very recently rescued a number of puppies who were, presumably, bred for Christmas and then found surplus to requirements. Thankfully, they are doing very well in our care, having been wormed and given a lot of TLC."
Lyn said it was difficult for the team when people rejected animals for poor reasons.
"Black cats and kittens don't home well," she said. "People have actually said that they want something nicer than that. People also want hairy, nice coloured, small, cute pups. They don't want plain dogs in mongrel form.
"We have had a wee brown Jack Russell for months and he has only got a home now."
The founder of the charity, which mainly cares for horses, told the Belfast Telegraph it had recently received an increased amount of calls from people wanting to get rid of animals before December 25.
"We have had a huge amount of calls from people who want older dogs re-homed before Christmas," Lyn added.
"Even rabbits are looking for homes. Today alone, we have five calls. It seems to be the Christmas period brings an increase in calls."
Dogs, cats and horses are not just handed out at Crosskennan. Instead, families are asked to spend quality time with prospective pets so the team can see how they interact with them.
"We have had six or seven people looking for horses for Christmas presents," Lyn said. "It just doesn't happen like that. It is a slow process getting animals from us. We need to make sure animals are matched with the right family."