AN ANIMAL rescue charity has slammed teenagers who left a young hedgehog ‘screaming in pain’ after ‘kicking it around like a football’.

The 400g female hedgehog was rescued by a nine-year-old boy in Alway park and taken to a local vet, but was put down the following day after suffering a collapsing lung and a brain haemorrhage.

The hedgehog, which was named by volunteers as 'Harriet' and believed to have been in its infancy, also suffered eye and ear injuries, as well as internal bleeding and severe bruising.

The group of teenage boys, aged between 15 and 16 years old, have been condemned for their cruelty to the young animal.

Animal rescue charity HedgehogHelpline was first called to the scene on Saturday August 29 and took the injured hedgehog to Graham Blow at Bridge Vets in Pontllainfraith.

Sue Hooper, who has volunteered with HedgehogHelpline for nearly two years, said she was in tears when she found out what had happened.

"The fact that a nine-year-old boy stood up to the teenagers is quite frankly amazing," she said.

“There’s been so many stories of people using hedgehogs as footballs.

"If this is what teenagers are doing as kids what are they doing as adults?"

She added: "It’s hard to believe until you actually see it. That anyone could do this to an actual animal.

“You don’t think you are going to get those phone calls, but when I heard the screaming over the phone I dropped my shopping at home in Caldicot and drove straight to Newport.”

She added that the injuries to the young hedgehog were the worst she had ever seen.

“It was absolutely horrific,” she said.

“The hedgehog was just screaming in pain. The medication we gave her, as well as stronger drugs, didn’t seem to make a difference at all. She was throwing her head back and screaming."

Kirsten Stevens-Wood, the chairwoman of HedgehogHelpline, said she too was shocked by the injuries.

“Young people are often incredibly positive about local wildlife, so it is shocking that they were kicking a hedgehog around like a football,” she said.