The RSPCA investigated almost 4,000 complaints about animal cruelty in Essex last year - with ten new animal welfare concerns being looked into by local inspectors every day.

The figures, which make Essex the third cruellest county in the South East, have been released as part of the charity’s annual Cruelty Statistics, which shows 141,760 complaints about animal welfare were investigated across the country in 2017.

In Essex, there were 3,947.

Nationally, Essex is in the 'top ten', ranking eighth out of the 47 counties which have the most animal cruelty complaints.

The highest number of complaints investigated were in Greater London, with 11,259, followed by Greater Manchester, with 7,472 and then West Yorkshire, with 6,969.

The most calls received in Essex related to dogs, with 2,112, followed by cats, with 971, and then equines, at 626.

Horses accounted for 452 complaints.

Samantha Garvey, the RSPCA’s chief inspector who covers Essex, said: “Our officers are stretched to the limits as we try to help all the suffering, sick and dying animals in our county.

"We are also dealing with the very real problem of the horse crisis and this is reflected by the figures which reveal that Essex is actually the fifth on the national list for the highest number of complaints received about horses."

She added: "Even though I have been with the RSPCA for a very long time now, I am still shocked and saddened by the awful incidents of cruelty which our officers are dealing with day in and day out.

"The job of an RSPCA officer can be tough and emotionally very draining, but being able to rescue an animal from horrific neglect or brutal cruelty and know they are going to be given a second chance thanks to the tireless work of our staff and volunteers, is the reason we keep doing it.

"The work of the RSPCA family helps to transform the lives of thousands of animals in Essex each year and we are so grateful to the public who report cruelty to us and continue to support our vital work."

Chief Inspector Garvey added: “Every day in Essex we are seeing first hand the effect of the horses crisis with our officers being called out to deal with abandoned, sick, dying and even dead horses across the county.

"We work closer with other equine agencies across Essex but the crisis is just so big it’s a constant uphill struggle."rt cruelty to us and continue to support our vital work."

To report animal welfare concerns, call the charity's cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.