“A LOT of people say ‘I don’t know how you can work here, it’s so sad’,” said Tracy Green, animal care assistant at the Scottish SPCA centre in Milton.

“But a lot of people don’t realise, when an animal comes here it’s already been taken away from something bad, so we see it as a positive.”

With more than 10 years’ experience between them, Tracy and colleague Lisa Porter-Smith understand why people would expect their job to be upsetting, but it couldn’t be further from the truth – especially over the festive period.

The Dumbarton Road-based centre cares for 80 animals – from snakes to dogs and everything in between – 24/7, 365 days a year.

It’s a tough, physical job and, the pair say, not for those with a weak stomach.

But, like many of us who see the Christmas and New Year break as a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends, so do the staff at the centre.

Lisa said: “I wasn’t working this year but I only live down the road so I brought down a roast chicken for the dogs.

“We’re a bit quieter at this time of the year and we were closed to the public Christmas and Boxing Day so we have more quality time with the animals and get the chance to do some nice things with them, like take them for longer walks or let them play a bit more.”

Donations flood in over the festive period meant staff and animals alike enjoyed a Christmas Day party with extra treats, toys and non-alcoholic wine for the employees.

But as the holiday season draws to a close and the staff continue to hunt for loving, forever homes for their beloved residents, they know it’s only a matter of time before dozens of unwanted animals bought as Christmas presents come through the door.

Lisa explained: “I think it’s when puppies get to around six to eight months, that’s the age where they are bigger so not as cute but still very much puppies so they still might chew a shoe or have an accident inside.

“It starts to wear thin with people when it’s not realistic to expect them to be fully trained at that age. It typically takes up to a year.”

Tracy added: “We have a big problem with people getting dogs on Gumtree. We don’t rehome anyone from December 20 but some people are so determined and will go online to get a pet.

“Then they bring the animal here and we’ll ask how long they’ve had it and they’ll say ‘oh a couple of weeks’, because they’ve taken on an animal with no information about it.

“We would much rather someone phoned us and said they can’t look after their animal any more, rather than posting it online ‘free to a good home’ because you don’t know the kind of people who will take it.”

The online surge in pet sales has resulted in the shelter following strict criteria when it comes to rehoming its animals.

Staff understand some potential owners may find the process “frustrating” but it’s about ensuring the perfect match for every pet, with both Tracy and Lisa agreeing the animal chooses the owner.

And while it might be a complex system, it makes the hard work of the staff worthwhile when one of their animals finally finds its forever home.

“I love it when you see them going home and going out the gates with their wee new collar or harness,” says Tracy. “It’s like a new dog, you see them in a new light.”

Lisa added: “When you get a dog that’s scared of its own shadow and then months of work later it’s like a different dog and you get that first little lick on your face – it’s amazing.

“It’s always bitter sweet when they go because we treat them like they’re our own. We tell them we love them constantly.

“Both Tracy and I live in Dumbarton so Sometimes we will be out and see a dog that’s been here with their new families and it’s just the most amazing feeling. Although we look a bit weird going over to talk to the dog instead of the person.”

The SSPCA staff are urging people to remember a dog is not just for Christmas. Anyone wishing to give up their pet can call the centre on 03000 999 999.