UP to 300 animals could have to be put down if Oxfordshire’s largest animal charity is forced to shut because of a lack of funding, a warden has warned.

Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary in Stadhampton has seen a rise in the number of dogs and cats dumped and may have to close within 12 months.

It has rehomed more than 18,000 cats, rabbits and guinea pigs since opening in 1967.

But the charity’s bosses have said it could close within a year as the use of its kennels and catteries are at an all-time high.

It urgently needs more money to cover running costs.

Volunteers are caring for 105 dogs and 170 cats at their village base.

From 2010 until 2011, 148 dogs were dumped and 140 rehomed, with the total increasing to 186 dogs dumped and 188 rehomed from 2012 until 2013.

Sanctuary warden Rachel Tatam said: “What would happen to all the animals if we have to close?

“We have more than 300 animals when you count the rabbits and guinea pigs too, and if we had to close most of them would end up being destroyed.

“Other charities are in a similar position so they wouldn’t be able to take them.

“As well as more pets being dropped off we are seeing a rise in vets’ bills.”

Ten-month old Giant schnauzer Poppy was dumped at the sanctuary two months ago suffering a heart problem. The operation to save her life – scheduled for the next two weeks – will cost the charity £2,500.

Ms Tatam added: “She is a young and lovely dog so it would be so sad to put her to sleep.”

Three-year-old shar pei Nala was abandoned by her owner four months ago.

She had infected ear tumours that defeaned her, but a successful £800 ear operation has cured her hearing problem.

Sanctuary spokesman Phoebe Stewart Cox said: “At the moment we have about 12 months worth of money left, which is probably about the worst situation we have been in. We desperately need more donations now.”

“We have a huge number of animals who are so lovely and there is no reason why they shouldn’t have a home. They would make amazing pets.”

The sanctuary has 17 staff and costs around £520,000 a year to run.

Vets bills cost £110,000 and food and bedding £66,000.

It costs an average of £20 a week to care for each animal.

The charity fundraises through charity shops in Summertown, Didcot, Witney and Carterton, and from public donations.

The sanctuary is appealing for anyone to help, either by adopting a pet or donating regularly at oascharity. org.uk.

Anyone able to help can also call the sanctuary on 01865 890239.