AN investigation is underway after four puppies who were dumped in a crate by the roadside have died.

The pups were among 15 Cockapoos discovered inside the crate that was found in Pitsea, near Basildon crematorium.

A member of the public had found the crate after hearing the puppies whimpering and crying out for help.

They rushed them to a nearby vet but one had already died, while another three had to be put down due to their poor health.

The surviving 11 pups are now being closely monitored by experts, but are still suffering with diarrhoea.

The RSPCA has now launched an investigation as it looks to find those responsible.

Inspector Chloe Frost, who is leading the probe, said: “It is so shocking that such a large number of puppies were dumped, especially as they were all so poorly.

“They had all been dumped in a dirty crate with no food or water and in such hot temperatures too.

“We're so thankful that they were found as now the remaining pups have a chance of survival.”

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The RSPCA says it remains fearful that a surge in people buying puppies during coronavirus lockdowns will lead to similar incidents where dogs are abandoned by owners or breeders.

Ms Frost added: “We don't know at this stage if they (the Cockapoos) came from a puppy farm and then abandoned when it was realised how poorly they were.

“We also can't rule out that they are the result of a demand for 'lockdown' puppies - and we are concerned about what will happen to more 'lockdown puppies' over the coming months.”

The RSPCA says it saw a huge rise in the number of people searching for its ‘rehoming’s section of its website between March and December last year.

Viewing figures almost doubled to more than one million.

Anyone with information about the abandoned puppies found in Pitsea on Monday should contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018.