A hedgehog had to be destroyed after a gang of “hooded youths” left it with major injuries, kicking it around like a football.
A woman, who does not want to be named for fear of repercussion, intervened when she saw the three youths kicking the hedgehog to each other in Gough Lane, Clayton Brook on Sunday.
She then took it to Preston Hedgehog Rescue Centre in Formby Place, Savick, Ashton where experts made the decision to have the animal put down.
Mark Allison, of the rescue centre, said: “I was brought a young hedgehog that had been kicked about by a bunch of youths aged between nine and 11.
“When the woman who witnessed what happened she raced over to the kids who ran off.
“The incident happened in Clayton Brook at 12.30pm-12:45pm in the Woodfield area near the shops and church.
“I am reporting this to the Police and RSPCA and appealing for anyone who saw this incident to call them.
“The hog in question had to be sent to be put down with multiple fractures, breaks and a broken back.
“This senseless act highlights what we at the rescue centre deal with. Hedgehogs are out and about in the daytime because of lack of food.
“I can’t imagine why any child would think it’s acceptable. If you see anyone being cruel, people need to be stopped doing it.”