THE horrific abuse and torture of a chicken at the hands of two teenagers, and the dramatic cliff rescue of 65 sheep, were just part of a very busy year for the RSPCA.

RSPCA Cymru rescued 23 animals every day in Wales during 2019 - as frontline officers continued to offer a "lifeline to pets, farm animals and wildlife".

The latest figures are published as RSPCA Cymru launches its annual summary, shining a spotlight on all aspects of the charity's work in Wales - including the 8,294 animals rescued.

Rescues in 2019 involved multiple animals at one time - including 65 sheep stranded on 80-metre high sea cliffs at Mathry in Pembrokeshire. The incident was labelled "long, difficult and the most technical undertaken by an RSPCA officer”, after the worried sheep had fled to the cliffs to avoid a dog.

The new report publishes a “potentially positive trend”, too - as the number of convictions secured against those perpetrating cruelty to animals fell for the first time in four years.

Prosecution remains a last resort for the RSPCA - and, in a busy year, some 7,197 complaints of cruelty were investigated. 122 convictions were secured from magistrates where cases had to be pursued through the courts.

RSPCA Cymru still investigated some “truly horrific” cases. The importance of the charity's ongoing Generation Kind work - aiming to nurture kindness and compassion among younger members of society - was underlined after two Milford Haven teenagers hit, clubbed and stabbed a chicken, before setting the helpless animal alight.

The pair – who cannot be named for legal reasons - stole the chicken from a Milford Haven garden, before subjecting the bird, Daisy, to the acts dubbed by a veterinary surgeon as "gratuitous torture".

Martyn Hubbard, superintendent of RSPCA Cymru, said: "Nothing underlines the tireless efforts of the RSPCA's officers in Wales more than the fact that - on average - they rescued and collected 23 animals in Wales every single day last year.

“We're on the frontline for all animals, our animal rescuers have again dealt with the most diverse situations imaginable. They offer such a lifeline to pets, farm animals and wildlife.

“But our work extends beyond rescues - and our officers once again investigated thousands of complaints, and worked with countless owners - so often driving up welfare standards without the need for further intervention. But while education, advice and support is always a priority, sometimes there is little option but to prosecute.

“Thankfully, the number of prosecutions has fallen for the first time since 2015, and are at their lowest level for three years - a potentially positive trend. However, we still dealt with some truly horrific cases - and the need for our Generation Kind programmes for younger people became even clearer after two youths were prosecuted for torturing and burning a chicken alive."

Much of the RSPCA’s work - including emergency rescues, rehoming and advising the public - continues during Covid-19 restrictions. An urgent fundraising appeal has been launched to help keep the RSPCA on the frontline during the crisis.

To help the RSPCA keep rescuing animals like these and keep our animal hospitals and centres running for emergency treatment and round the clock care through these unprecedented times, please donate whatever you can spare at