Three puppies were abandoned in a country park – crammed inside a domestic food waste bin.
Two of them were found riddled with worms and are now under the care of the RSPCA. The third pup died.
The eight-week-old cockapoos were found at Leybourne Lakes Country Park in Snodland yesterday at 10.30am.
The RSPCA believes they had failed to sell, as the cost of living crisis sweeps in.
During the pandemic, the value of dogs soared due to increased demand for pets during lockdown, with breeds such as cockapoos demanding a four-figure sum.
The charity’s rescue centres are now full to bursting with animals that have been abandoned, neglected, abused or signed over as their owners can no longer take care of them.
It is spending an estimated £26,000 per week on private boarding facilities due to capacity issues at jam-packed centres.
Inspector Rosie Russon who is leading an investigation, said: "A shocked member of the public found them at 10.30am inside a small plastic domestic food waste bin which had been dumped at Leybourne Lakes Country Park.
"They rushed them to our team at RSPCA Leybourne Animal Centre but, sadly, one – a female – had already died.
"The two surviving pups – one male and one female – were riddled with worms and their prognosis is guarded but we’re giving them the best chance we can and we really hope they pull through."
The puppies were all microchipped but the chips have not been registered with a database. They were also wearing different coloured cat collars – a typical tactic employed by breeders so they can tell the puppies apart.
"We don’t know where these puppies have come from but we suspect they’ve been abandoned by a breeder after failing to sell; or because they suspected poor health and couldn’t afford the veterinary care they’d need," she said.
"We’re keen to hear from anyone who may recognise them, know anyone who has bred a litter of cockapoo puppies locally recently, or saw anything suspicious in the area to contact our appeal line on 0300 123 8018."
Rosie added: "Worryingly our centres are fit to bursting and we’ve got hundreds of animals waiting to come into our care. We’ve seen an increase in animals coming into our care, a surge in abandonments, and a drop in rehoming; all of which we believe is linked to the ongoing cost of living crisis.
"Times are tough at the moment and we’re trying to help as best we can. We’ve launched an online cost of living hub to provide information and advice to pet owners who may be struggling, as well as a hotline people can call if they’re struggling.
"We’re also supporting pet food banks across the country and providing vouchers to access veterinary care where possible. But we’re struggling to cope too and we have more and more animals coming into our care so we’d urge owners to please never, ever abandon their pets but, instead, to ask for help.
"We want to help animals stay in their homes with their loving families where possible."