Shoppers who witnessed a gang of teenagers stamp on a fatally injured pigeon have been urged to report the incident to police.
The RSPCA says a crime may have been committed after eight youths were seen repeatedly kicking the bird in Darlington town centre.
One youngster was reported to have jumped on the animal – which was already lying injured after being hit by a car.
A spokesperson with the animal welfare charity said: “This sounds like a distressing incident and we urge anyone with information to contact the police or the RSPCA.”
The attack, on Saturday, was carried out in front of children, the Northern Echo reported. It continued even after a nearby shop security guard attempted to warn the youths away.
One witness, Jordon O’Gorman told the newspaper: “It was disgusting.” He added: “I just saw a lot of teenagers surrounding it. I saw one boy jump and land on the pigeon. “I heard the security guard tell them to move but they wouldn’t. “It had been knocked over – it was dead – but still no need to jump on it.”
“It’s disgusting and there were two younger kids with me so I turned them round. I didn’t want them seeing that.”