THE RSPCA is urging people to 'snip the straps' from disposable face masks after helping more than 900 animals caught in litter since lockdown began.

Dumped face masks have become a new hazard to wildlife and the animal charity has received reports of animals tangled in the ear straps of single-use masks since it became law for the public to wear them in shops.

The message comes as the RSPCA backs Keep Britain Tidy's Great British September Clean, which ends on September 27.

Since lockdown started on March 23, the RSPCA has dealt with 938 incidents of animals caught in litter, including tin cans, elastic bands and plastic bottles. Of those, 29 where in Merseyside.

Chris Sherwood, its chief executive, said: "For many years the public have been aware of the message to cut up plastic six-pack rings before throwing them away to stop animals getting tangled in them, and now we are keen to get out the message that the same should be done for face masks too - as very sadly, animals are susceptible to getting tangled up in them.

"Now that face masks are the norm, and may be for some time to come, this message is more important than ever as thousands of these masks are being thrown away every day.

"We're concerned discarded face masks could become a significant hazard, particularly to wild animals and birds.

"Our RSPCA officers have had to rescue animals from getting tangled in face masks and we expect that this may go up as time goes on, so the best thing to do is to simply cut the elastic ear straps in half before throwing it away."

Most cases of litter affecting animals are preventable if rubbish is disposed of properly and responsibly.

Animals looking for food can get trapped in tin cans and the sharp edges can cause injury. We encourage people to clean and empty food containers before pinching them shut or cutting them in half before putting them in the recycling.

Elastic bands also pose a big risk to small animals and birds as they can wrap around their bodies or beaks and cause choking and other injuries.

Broken glass can cause serious injury and small animals can get trapped in jars and bottles so please clean and recycle glass as much as possible.

Plastic bags can suffocate animals or, if they eat them, can cause them to choke or can block their digestive system.

The RSPCA's top tips to protect wildlife from litter are:

  • Recycle and reuse as much as possible - and put everything else in the bin;
  • Cut the loop handles of plastic carrier bags before recycling to prevent animals being tangled;
  • Cut plastic can holders and elastic bands so animals can’t get caught up;
  • Cut up balloons before putting them in the bin;
  • Cut up disposable gloves and snip the straps on face masks to prevent animals getting tangled;
  • Clean and empty containers after use and pinch cans shut or cut containers in half before recycling.

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The RSPCA is continuing its vital work rescuing animals during the Coronavirus crisis.

To help the RSPCA keep rescuing animals and keep our animal hospitals and centres running for emergency treatment and round the clock care through these unprecedented times, please donate whatever you can spare at