A domestic cat died in agony after it was caught in an illegal snare in County Durham, the RSPCA said yesterday.

The skin around the animal’s legs had been stripped away as the frantic animal struggled to free itself from the self-locking snare on the Carterway Heads side of Derwent Reservoir.

Inspector Sue Craig, who was informed about the cat by a member of the public, said the animal had spent a long time trying in vain to free itself.

She said the cat was a domestic short-haired tabby and had obviously been someone’s pet.

“Whoever set this snare has broken the law” she said, “They have set an illegal self-locking snare and they have caught a family pet, leaving it to die in agony.

I would urge anyone who has information about who set this snare to contact the RSPCA immediately.”

Snares are mainly used by gamekeepers to kill so called “pest” species, but it is a criminal offence to catch or kill a domestic animal.

Self-locking snares are also illegal as their mechanism can lead to crushing or mutilation before death.