MORE than 20 million potentially lifesaving reports have been made to the RSPCA’s call centre in Barnsley over the last two decades - and heartbreaking figures show the 150-strong workforce receive news of a neglected animal every five minutes.

The centre, based in Wath-upon-Dearne, celebrated its 20th anniversary last week.

Every year, around a million calls are made from across England and Wales to the Barnsley centre, which is the first point of contact for people reporting animal cruelty and neglect.

Around 150 people are on hand day and night to support those who come across the heartbreaking cases - and they’re continuing to help animals despite the charity facing more challenges than ever before.

Bosses have said that reports of cruelty are now ‘soaring’ due to the cost-of-living crisis - with cases of abandonment hitting a three-year high.

The latest figures show that more than 21,000 reports are expected this year compared to 16,000 in 2020 - a whopping 31.25 per cent increase.

Unfortunately, the call centre also received 43,360 reports of neglect to animals last year.

That equates to one every five minutes whilst the centre is open.

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It’s expected that figure will soar to around 50,000 this year.

Jill Smith, RSPCA specialist manager who started at the call centre from the first day it opened, said: “Over the last in excess of 20 million calls have come through to us and it can be stressful at times with some of the horrific cruelty we have reported to us along with harrowing videos and photographs which people send in as part of their evidence.

“But we do have a real sense of family here within the workforce and the staff have unwavering dedication towards the RSPCA and in helping to stop animal cruelty.

“We are fully supporting the RSPCA’s Join the Winter Rescue and have been fundraising and are also encouraging others to make a donation to help rescue teams reach the thousands of animals who desperately need them.”

Due to the increased pressure on the service members of the public are asked to consider if their call is not an emergency to gain advice from the RSPCA website.

This will allow staff to direct frontline rescuers to animals in greatest need.

To celebrate their anniversary earlier this month, animals and their new owners who were helped by the service visited the call centre to issue their heartfelt thanks.

Buddy was adopted by 23-year-old Abby Leese, who lives in Wath and works at the centre.

He was initially rescued by the charity and once Abbey saw Buddy’s case, she said she ‘instantly fell in love’ with him.

She said: “During a phone call to an inspector he told me he had a rescue dog which he was fostering because his owner could no longer cope with caring for his needs.

“He said how he needed to find him a permanent home and once he sent me a photograph of Buddy I fell in love and we adopted him.

“He is aged about 18 months now and lives with my parents dog called Oscar and they love to snuggle up and play together.

“Buddy is loving family life and has a cheeky streak - but he has settled so well and we are delighted to have him as an addition to the family.

“He comes to work with me sometimes and it is great because all the call centre staff can see the result of their efforts in helping save animals.”

Other animals, such as French-bull dog and Shihtzu X Otter, are among the success stories at the site who have managed to live a prolonged and happy life thanks to the amazing work of those at the call centre.

It was back in September 2022 when a report was made after a member of the public walking in Beeley Woods, near Middlewood, Sheffield.

RSPCA frontline rescuer deputy chief inspector Sara Jordan immediately launched an investigation to find the person responsible for dumping him and his four siblings.

After months of hard work, Otter was adopted by Tom Buckley - a hub manager at the Barnsley site - and is a regular visitor to the Capita building.

He said: “I had heard about what happened to Otter and was really shocked and as the inspector is a friend I kept asking her for updates.

“Then as soon as he was old enough I went to meet him with my family and I was smitten.

“Now he regularly comes to work with me and it is great for other staff to see the major difference we can make by taking reports on the cruelty line and making sure they are dealt with.

“Otter is a walking testament to this and the amazing work also carried out by the charity frontline rescuers.”