Dr Yeates characterised the scale of the issue by pointing out the RSPCA received more than a million calls in 2012 about animals in distress, of which 150,000 were investigated by the charity as cruelty.
He said: “This is not a small-scale problem, it doesn’t always come to the RSPCA and most days, if not every day, vets see owners who, to some extent, are unable to take care of their animals and, in some cases, are unwilling to care for their animals.
“There is not a practice in the country that has not had animals left on its doorstep or owners, who when faced with the requirements to solve welfare problems they themselves have caused, want to relinquish the animal.
“Vets often find themselves stepping up for these cases – either by working late and putting in extra hours or taking on the animal for themselves.”
While he believes education has a role to play, Dr Yeates wants to see new regulation to tackle “substandard” pet owners.