STAFF at an animal rescue centre were shocked when a sickly pregnant dog was found abandoned in a field at Chobham.

The Jack Russell was discovered in a cardboard box under a bush by a dog walker on a footpath off Bagshot Road.

She was taken to the RSPCA’s Millbrook Animal Centre in the village, which rushed her to a veterinary surgery for treatment. The dog, nicknamed Penny, was found to be carrying six puppies.

“We were extremely worried for Penny when we saw her condition,” said Millbrook’s deputy manager, Liz Wood. “She looked gravely ill and was hardly responding to us.

“The vet team discovered she was covered in fleas and maggots, was dehydrated and had critically low blood glucose levels. They put her straight on a drip to get vital fluids into her little body.”

Penny gave birth to the puppies on Monday 27 June, the day after she was rescued, but they all died.

“Had she been taken care of properly the puppies may well have survived,” Liz added. “Thank goodness Penny was found when she was, otherwise she too may not have pulled through."

The RSPCA is preparing to deal with a surge in abandoned animals as the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. It fears more owners will decide not to keep pets, as they return to work following furlough, go on holiday or struggle financially.

The charity typically sees a peak in discarded pets during the summer. In June and August last year, 16,519 discarded animals were reported – 30% of all animals abandoned in 2019. In Surrey last summer, there were reports of 146 dumped pets.

The head of the RSPCA’s animal rescue teams, Dermot Murphy, said: “During lockdown, we’ve seen pets become a source of comfort and support for people and it appears many people have taken on new animals.

“During this time, we’ve dealt with fewer abandoned pets but we are worried that, as lockdown eases, we will be facing a massive surge of abandonments.”