PETS and wild creatures are being killed or left suffering horrendous injuries because of the mindless actions of litter louts.
Every two hours a call goes through to an emergency hotline to report an animal being harmed by rubbish.
Shocking photographs of a hedgehog garroted by an elastic band and a seal left floundering by a frisbee have been released by the RSPCA to highlight the crisis.
Birds are the worst hit creatures with plastic waste and discarded fishing tackle taking a heavy toll of swans, geese and gulls.
Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 has focused global attention on the damage being done to the environment by the billions of bits of plastic contaminating our oceans.
Yet across the UK, frontline animal care workers are witnessing the horrific injuries caused to both pets and wild creatures either killed or maimed by litter.
The RSPCA said it received 5,081 calls last year about animals affected by rubbish. Among the pets and wild mammals worst hit were 146 domestic cats, 106 foxes, 74 deer and 53 hedgehogs.
Birds bore the brunt of the cases with 1,187 swans, 886 domestic geese and 440 gulls getting into difficulties after falling foul of waste.
By far the worst problem is caused by angling detritus, with seven out of ten calls through to the RSPCA blaming old hooks, lures, netting or other fishing paraphernalia. The other 1,396 cases largely related to plastic and tin cans.
The RSPCA’s head of wildlife, Adam Grogan, says most cases of litter impacting on any animals could be prevented if rubbish is disposed of properly and responsibly.
He said: “It’s shocking how many litter-related incidents we see, particularly as these kinds of animal injuries and deaths are entirely avoidable.
“It is good that there’s a global spotlight on how we use and dispose of plastic and other litter so that people understand how their rubbish is affecting animals and the environment.
“Every month our officers, wildlife centres and hospitals deal with hundreds of cases where pets or wildlife have become caught up in – and even died – from carelessly discarded items.
“Only last week, the RSPCA was called out to a duck, which sadly had to be put to sleep after being found with severe injuries from a ring of plastic – probably from an oil can – stuck round her neck and beak.
“An animal’s life could be saved if members of the public picked up and safely binned any litter they saw.”
Simply using commonsense can stop wild animals or pets suffering excruciating and life threatening injuries from the sharp edges of tin cans if the containers are cleaned and squeezed in half before being thrown away.
Reusing elastic bands rather than throwing them away stops them becoming wrapped around inquisitive hedgehogs or birds, while bottles and broken glass can easily trap small animals or cause serious cuts to dogs being walked.
The RSPCA is also highlighting the way it has to deal regularly with injuries caused by used fishing gear.
The charity said: “Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one careless person to endanger the life of an animal.
“Injuries caused by discarded fishing hooks stop animals eating and can lead to infection and old fishing line may cause strangulation or deep wounds where the line has cut into their body.”