RSPCA inspectors want the public’s help finding the owner of a miniature Shetland pony found dead and dumped on a South Lakeland back road.

Severe head and jaw wounds believed to have been caused by an ingrowing head collar and bridle were found on the animal at Hale, near Milnthorpe.

The charity said it had enough evidence the animal had been caused ‘intense pain and suffering’ and a criminal prosecution was likely if the owner was traced.

Due to the deepness of the injuries and infection, it is thought veterinary treatment was not sought for the black-dark brown male gelding, which was aged between 18 months and two-years.

Police were told about the gruesome discovery by a member of the public, who found it lying sodden in a passing place near Fieldhouse Caravan Park on New Year’s Eve.

RSPCA inspector for Cumbria and north Lancashire, Chris Towler, said: “It had an horrendous, circulated wound around its face.

“You could put your thumb into the wound all the way around. It would have been extremely painful for the animal.

“I would say, given the amount of cars coming through when we were picking the pony up, it was probably there no longer than a day.

“The breakdown of tissue suggests the animal died no more than 48 hours before. It was a fresh wound.”

Insp Towler said the ‘deep, penetrating’ injury would have made simple tasks like eating agonizing for the animal.

He could not say whether the wound caused the pony’s death, suggesting it may have died from infection or shock.

A full post mortem would need to take place to determine the exact cause of death, he explained.

But he added: “Irrespective of that, we have enough evidence as things stand that the animal had been caused suffering.

“I would urge the public to give us any leads relating to its owner. It maybe that someone has seen this animal and now it is no longer on site.”

Anyone with any information about the owner of the pony is asked to contact Insp Towler on 0300-1234-999.