A VET who last year praised the poorest in society for ‘giving so much when they had so little’ has launched his annual appeal to help feed needy dogs and cats in Redditch and Birmingham over Christmas.

Kingstanding vet Rory Lydon donned his ‘Santa Claws’ hat for the 23rd year running to appeal to the animal-loving public to donate food to homeless cats and dogs in time for their Christmas lunch.

Mr Lydon said: “We are appealing for donations to our collection box in our Kingstanding Road practice or our sister practice at 926 Walsall Road in Great Barr. All the food collected will be shared between two very deserving charities – Hollytrees Dog Rescue & Boarding in Hollywood and North Birmingham Cats Protection.

“Hollytrees founder, Ray Dedicoat, has rehomed around 500 dogs and a similar number of cats this year and he never stops – he works 24/7 and will be out over Christmas helping various agencies pick up strays.”

Mr Dedicoat said: “Rory is our very own twinkly-eyed Irish Father Christmas. Except we’re never sure precisely when he is coming – but he turns up faithfully every year with the ‘dogs dinners’ and that’s all that matters.”

Mr Dedicoat, aged 61, set up Hollytrees more than 35 years ago to rescue and care for abandoned, neglected or injured stray pets and wildlife and still responds to calls for assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – including Christmas Day.

He said: “Our facilities will be open for whatever emergencies arise and, as we’re 100 per cent voluntary, we’re always grateful for the food and help we get from volunteers and the general public. I’d like to thank Acorn vets at Studley and Alvechurch as they collect and bring in food too - last year such kind contributions saw us through until March.”