POVERTY and poor education have been identified as possible factors for the region's unenviable reputation as the animal cruelty capital of Britain.

New figures from the RSPCA reveal that County Durham had the second highest number of people convicted for animal welfare offences in the country last year.

One hundred people were prosecuted by the charity - up from 74 in 2012.

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Only West Yorkshire had more convictions.

Across the North-East and North Yorkshire, 216 people were convicted of 591 crimes - a rise of 23 prosecutions.

RSPCA regional manager Mike Hogg said: “The figures are usually the highest in the North of England, and of course it’s impossible to say for certain why that is.

“We have a large number of big cities in the region where greater numbers of people typically live.

"There also tend to be greater levels of poverty and less education in these places.

"Another factor could be that people living in the North are more likely to call the RSPCA if they see something they don’t think is right.”

The annual cruelty statistics for 2013 form part of the charity’s prosecutions annual report, published to coincide with #RSPCAWeek which runs from June 14 to 22.

Across England and Wales the number of people convicted decreased 11.7 per cent from 1,552 to 1,371 but across the RSPCA’s North of England region the number was up 6.6 per cent at 566 in 2013 compared to 531 in 2012.

In the North, the RSPCA investigated 1,763 more complaints in 2013 than in 2012.

Dogs were still the animal most likely to be involved in cruelty cases.

David Bowles, head of external affairs at the RSPCA, said: “Although there have been fewer convictions relating to dogs, we are still rescuing more and more and the fact is that the RSPCA takes in some of the most needy dogs - we don’t pick and choose by breed or by the desperate lives that they’ve lived before they came to us.

“I think we should be proud that, despite taking in some very damaged animals, we rehomed an incredible 55,323 animals in 2013.”