A staggering 20 puppies have been rescued after they were found abandoned in a crate in a layby in Essex.
The puppies were spotted by a kind-hearted member of the public who was walking in the area on Friday at about 3pm.
The finder called the RSPCA and inspector Sian Ridley and animal rescue officer Enola Evans discovered the 20 small puppies shut in a metal crate in the layby near Fryerning.
They collected the pups and took them straight to a vet for treatment. One of the puppies was very weak and was being kept warm by a member of the public when the officers arrived.
Sadly the puppy was too weak and vets made the difficult decision to put her to sleep to prevent further suffering.
The surviving pups were all small and each weighed less than a bag of sugar - there were 14 males and five females.
Staff are not yet sure what breed they are but it is thought the slightly larger pups are cockapoo or poodle crosses and the smaller ones are possibly jackapoos.
The puppies were all in reasonable health and have been given fluids with glucose over the weekend.
Sian said: “When I was told how many puppies there were I actually thought there was a mistake - I couldn’t believe that someone had abandoned 20 puppies.
“They were all quite scared and timid when we arrived and it was just heartbreaking to see them all huddled in the one cage - they looked a pitiful sight.
“I want to say a huge thank you to all the passersby who stayed to help these pups and also to the vets who were able to take on the care of pups over a weekend at such short notice.
“It is difficult to know where these have come from. It could have been a I suspect that these may be a puppy farm but they were friendly, clean and did not have fleas so they may not have been kept in a shed without human contact.
“It is also unusual that such a large number of the pups are male and I wonder if that was the reason they had been abandoned, because they wouldn’t be useful for breeding or are harder to sell on.
“We were concerned they may have had parvo and that this was the reason they had been abandoned but that's not the case and apart from some having worms they all appear to be quite healthy.
“I'm keen to hear from anyone who may know who is responsible for abandoning these puppies in such an irresponsible way.
“They were so young and vulnerable, it is likely that someone just drove up in the layby, got them out of the car and then just left them - so I am keen to speak to anyone who may have seen a suspicious vehicle in the area on Friday.
“Times are tough at the moment, but abandoning tiny puppies like this is so irresponsible and cruel.”
Anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area or has any information which could assist the RSPCA’s investigation should contact the charity’s appeal line, confidentially, on 0300 123 8018.
Many of the pups have already been offered homes by the dedicated staff at the vets who are caring for them and all are currently in foster care.