POLICE dealt with three men after the force helicopter caught them in the act of attacking a horse in Harlington.
The chopper was flying over the village one night last week when they spotted the trio on their infrared camera walking with three dogs across a field.
The Air Operations Team suspected the men were poachers so they contacted wildlife officers Pc Mark Winter and Pc Paul Jameson.
While the officers were on route, the helicopter filmed as one of the three men appeared to throw an object at the horse.
Then as the animal walked away, the man approached again and punched it hard in the face and kicked one of its hind legs.
The helicopter crew were able to direct Pc’s Winter and Jameson to the location of the three men, who were suspected of ‘lamping’, a term for shooting at night using lamps.
All three were detained and the lamping equipment was confiscated.
Two were dealt with for poaching offences and one man in his late 20’s was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty and bailed pending further enquiries until mid December.
Pc Mark Winter said: “It is a little known fact that South Yorkshire Police has officers who specialise in wildlife crime alongside their regular role.
“But unfortunately in the large rural areas of South Yorkshire, wildlife crimes do occur.
“Poaching is a crime that can have a significant impact on rural communities.”
He added: “Without the assistance of the Air Operations Unit the men may not have been detained as the helicopter can scan vast areas of rural ground very quickly, something that officers on the ground can not do.
“Certainly, without the helicopter, one instance of animal cruelty would have gone undetected.”
Anyone who has information about wildlife crimes across the borough can contact South Yorkshire Police on 01142 202020.