SPCA staff were outraged to find a dog owner had left seven newborn pups to die in a cold Dunedin alleyway at the weekend.

The pups were less than two days old and still had their umbilical cords attached when abandoned in an open cardboard beer box in the middle of the night.

A young man walking home about 12.30am on Saturday stumbled across the box and took it home, thinking it contained a litter of kittens.

When he found the pups, which were barely alive, he rang the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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SPCA Otago animal supervisor Donna Hurring said the pups would not have survived the night.

Whoever dumped them did nothing to increase their chance of survival, leaving them without food, warmth or shelter in a dark lane.

The pups still cannot see, as their eyes will not open for another week.

They were probably born last Thursday or Friday and almost immediately left to die, Miss Hurring said.

"It's so unfair - they had no chance," she said.

Fortunately for the Staffordshire bull terrier-cross pups, of which six are male, Dunedin resident Susan Turner has fostered them and will continue to look after them until they are old enough to be adopted out.

The pups, which each weigh about 300g, need to be fed about 10ml of special milk formula every two hours.

"The fact that they survived the first night means they're pretty strong," she said.

Ms Turner, who has kittens and other dogs, is more concerned for the puppies' mother.

The bitch would be very sore, full of milk and distraught over the loss of her pups, she said.

Miss Hurring said the SPCA had dealt with quite a few cases of abandoned animals lately, mostly kittens.

People unable to cope with pets or litters should find an appropriate home for them or have them put down humanely.

"People should also be more sensible about getting their animals fixed," she said.

Miss Hurring and Ms Turner hoped the dog owner would be identified.

"Someone will notice their friend's dog was pregnant and there are no puppies.

"Inspectors can charge people with abandonment but it's proving it that can be hard," Miss Hurring said.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES