TWICE as many animal cruelty convictions happened in Essex last year compared to 2012.

New figures released by charity the RSPCA showed there were 144 convictions in 2013 and 71 the year before.

Nationally there were 1,371 people convicted, down from 1,552 last year.

RSPCA superintendent Paul Stilgoe said: “The UK is known as a nation of animal lovers and yet once again we have seen some truly heartbreaking sights this year, and animals suffering in horrific ways.

“We will always try to work with people and re-educate where possible, but there will always be some people who think it is alright to beat, kick, kill, starve or neglect an animal and times when the only way to stop them is to prosecute.”

The figures are detailed in the charity’s Prosecutions Annual Report, which also revealed that nationally the charity received more calls to its cruelty line in 2013 than ever and investigated almost 3,000 more complaints than in 2012.

The number of calls received increased from 1,163,428 in 2012 to 1,327,849 in 2013.