*WARNING: Graphic content below*

The RSPCA is appealing for information after the body of a dog was found which had been set on fire.

The awful discovery was made by a dog walker on a popular route along the River Skerne between Darlington Rugby Club and Lakeside.

It is believed that the dog was a small, young black and tan female terrier.

They suspect that the terrier was put in a bag and set on fire.

The Northern Echo: Burnt dog in Darlington

It is not known if the dog was alive or dead when it was set alight.

The body shows no evidence of previous injuries or fractures.

Krissy Raine, the RSPCA inspector who is investigating, said: "This is a really heartbreaking and sad incident and we are keen to find out who did this.

"This dog wasn’t an old dog - by all accounts she appears to have been quite young.

The Northern Echo: Burnt dog in Darlington

"Sadly she had no microchip or collar so we’re unable to trace the owner without the public’s help.

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"We hope someone is aware of a similar-looking dog who has gone missing recently, and may have important information for us. We believe she was wearing a black and white jumper or dog coat when she was set on fire."

The dog was found on Tuesday (21 November), however, the dog-walker who reported this to the RSPCA believes the dog had been there six days previously as they had seen the bag on a walk last week but hadn’t realised what it was.

Anyone who has information is urged to contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018, quoting reference 01187471.