The RSPCA investigated more than 13,000 animal cruelty complaints in London and Surrey last year.

The animal charity’s annual figures, released last Wednesday, show that the number of cruelty cases investigated in Surrey rose very slightly from 2,415 in 2015 to 2,419 in 2016, but figures for London saw a 9 per cent increase to 11,812 complaints.

One case involved a litter of six five-week-old puppies being abandoned in a plastic bucket on the doorstop of a cottage on Halebourne Lane, Chobham, six days before Christmas.

One of the puppies, Dasher, died of parvo virus a few days later but the rest recovered in the RSPCA’s Millbrook Animal Centre.

Liz Wood, the centre’s deputy manager, thinks that the puppies may have been bought with the intention of being sold as Christmas presents and then dumped when the puppies became ill.

She said: “They were so lucky they were found as if they had been there too much longer they would’ve all died.

“How anyone could treat defenceless little pups like this is just beyond me.”

Sutton’s slight year-on-year increase in animal abuse complaints is well below the national average, with an almost 5% annual rise from 2015-2016 bringing reported cases up to 148,000 nationwide.

The animal charity investigated over 35,000 animal cruelty complaints in the South East in 2016, up nearly 4% from the previous year.

In one cruelty case in Croydon, a German shepherd called Max was found collapsed at the bottom of a garden in such a bad state that he was initially thought to be dead.

Max was left dying in a filthy kennel when the call was sent to the RSPCA.

Although he was rushed to the vet, he could not be saved and had to be put to sleep the next day to prevent further suffering.

His owner, a 51-year-old man, was sentenced to six weeks in prison and was disqualified from keeping any animals for ten years.

Another German shepherd, Juliet, was found dumped at Bexley Cricket Club, Kent, with multiple puncture wounds and a face so swollen she couldn’t open her eyes.

RSPCA inspector Ellen Thomas, who took Juliet to the vet, said: “It looked at first as though she had given up, and we did not have much hope that she would survive.

“All her mannerisms were of defeat - it reduced me and the other two officers who found her to tears - she was such a heartbreaking sight.

“Amazingly, though, she made huge strides towards recovery after some food, care and TLC.”

Juliet has since recovered and been rehomed.

Dermot Murphy, Assistant Director of the RSPCA Inspectorate, believes that increase in reports of animal abuse is not due to a rise in animal cruelty but because social media has helped increase awareness.

Paul Stilgoe, RSPCA Superintendent for the South East said: “I never stop feeling appalled when I look back at the shocking catalogue of cruelty the region’s inspectors are called about.

“We investigate such horrific cases of abuse and extreme neglect - as this year’s figures and case studies show.

“Thankfully, there are also some happy endings to remind us what we strive for.”