A YOUNG mother has described her shock after being punched in the face when she confronted a group teenagers who were tormenting a seal.

Sarah Tough was left with blood pouring down her face when she was hit in the nose by the ringleader of the youths who were worrying the animal as it tried to head to the sea at Crimdon beach, in east Durham, on Monday.

The yob who squared up to her was left with his own injury after her dog turned on him and bit his ankle.

RECOVERING: Sarah Tough and her dog Tally. Picture: Gavin Engelbrecht 

Ms Tough, who trained as a paramedic in Canada and has returned to Peterlee where she is running her own business, said she was left confused and saddened by the incident.

She said: “I took my dog Tally for a walk along the beach when I saw something happening in the distance. I didn’t have my glasses on and at first I thought it was just a log or some driftwood.

"But when I got closer and they came into focus I realised it was a seal. It was rolling around, trying to shuffle towards the water but this group of eight teenagers - aged from 17 to 18 -were just getting in its way and rolling it around.

“They were throwing sand in its face, trying to bury it. I got angry and told them to stop it or I would call the police.

"One of them came up to me and 'Who are you talking to like?' and squared up to me and hit me in the face. It took me totally by surprise.”

The mum-of-two added: "My dog was right by me. She was a confused with someone rushing at me.

“She bit him on the ankle. I called her off because I didn’t want to get into trouble over that.

"They just walked off shouting abuse.”

She added: "The seal was terrified and it was exhausted, it wasn't moving, it was just lying there. "

Mrs Tough said the RSPCA came out and checked on it and said it was fine and would go back in with the tide.

She added: “I’m not angry. I’m just glad the seal is ok. I am just confused. I don’t understand why they would do that.”

An RSPCA spokesman said: "The RSPCA was called by police about a seal that they said was being poked by youths with sticks at Crimdon beach on Monday afternoon.

"An RSPCA officer attended and checked on the seal, which was healthy and, happily, showed no signs of injury.

"We were not aware of what happened to the woman who intervened, and hope she is okay.

"Seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970.

"If you see a seal on the beach leave it alone. Don't touch seals - they can give a nasty bite - and keep children and dogs away from them.

"Anyone with any concerns about animal welfare should call the RSPCA cruelty line on 0300 1234 999."