WIRRAL's Shirley Ballas is the voice of the RSPCA's Christmas advert and campaign for 2023.

Shirley, an RSPCA ambassador, champion ballroom dancer, and Strictly judge gave up her time to record the voiceover for the new Christmas advert which has hit screens this week.

The animal welfare charity is looking to raise vital funds as calls about abandonment and neglect to its emergency line reach a "shocking three-year high".

The advert forms a key part of the charity's 'Join the Christmas Rescue' campaign - which launches at a time when the RSPCA fears that "thousands of animals' lives are hanging in the balance".

It explores the unique role pets play in people's lives - from helping people combat loneliness and grief, to offering companionship to young children, to pets being the loving face that welcomes owners at the door when they return home.

However, it also explores the darker side of animal ownership - showing a recreation of the sort of abandonment call dealt with all too often by RSPCA officers - as animal rescue officer (ARO) Jade Guthrie is shown coming to the aid of a dog left tied up and alone next to some bins.

The advert airs as calls to the RSPCA about neglect and abandonment have been spiralling, amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Shirley has urged the public to Join the Christmas Rescue to support the work of the RSPCA's dedicated rescue teams.

She said: "This heart-warming advert reminds us that while many pets face a loving Christmas in a warm, safe home; many animals face a bleaker reality this festive season. 

"It's why I'm proud to provide the voiceover for the RSPCA's 2023 Christmas advert.

"I know the incredible and tireless work of their rescue teams to bring animals to safety, but it's their kind-hearted supporters - the animal-loving public - who power the rescue and help them bring even more animals to safety.

"Shockingly, animal neglect and abandonment calls coming into the RSPCA are reaching a three-year high. I hope this advert encourages people to Join the Christmas Rescue, and ensure more animals can be reached this winter."

In September, 1,969 incidents of abandonment were reported to the RSPCA - higher than the number in that month in 2020, 2021 and 2022, and the charity is braced for more tragic reports about dumped pets and animal neglect over the winter months.

ARO Jade added: "Sadly, the end of the advert demonstrates a situation our officers are seeing all too often on the frontline - abandoned, unwanted animals.

"I've wanted to be an RSPCA rescuer my whole life - but I've never seen things this busy on the frontline before; and we know this winter, our rescue teams are set to be inundated with more worrying calls about animals in need. For many, the RSPCA is their only hope.

"Thousands of animals' lives are hanging in the balance this Christmas. We must come together for the animals who need us - but we cannot do that without our kind supporters."

The advert will air on digital and TV platforms up until December 31.

The advert will also appear on the RSPCA’s social media channels - and supporters are being urged to share the video to encourage as many people as possible to Join the Christmas Rescue.