A complaint has been filed by a Spanish donkey sanctuary after a donkey foal was “squashed” to death by an obese man.

The man could face up to 18 months in prison.

The donkey was taking part in a nativity scene and was in a pen in the town in Lucena, Andalusia in 2014.

The man reportedly climbed into the animal’s pen on 10 December 2014 to pose for a photo with the donkey.

The donkey was thought to be only five months old and was not meant to be ridden in its role in the Christmas nativity scene, which was situated outside the City Hall.

However, the man — who reportedly weighs around 23 stone —clambered into the fenced off area and made the donkey pose in a “galloping” position.

The photo then was circulated on social media and caused general outcry.

The donkey, called Platero, was put down two days after the incident.

The police were alerted to the donkey after local people reported that the animal could barely stand.

A vet was called and the donkey was examined to find the extent of his injuries. He was transferred immediately to a specialist clinic for treatment before being put down.

An investigation was launched after two welfare groups — the Asociacion de Defense del Borrico and the Circulo Animalista de Podemos Lucene — made formal complaints to the police.

Charity El Refugio Del Burrito has now launched legal action.

“During the Bethlehem display and in front of several witnesses, the man kicked the donkey and rode it. This caused the death of the animal, a few days later, due to injuries of the spine and internal organs,” read a statement.

“With the aim of preventing repetitions of what happened during Christmas 2014, El Refugio del Burrito recently demanded a ban from the City Council of Lucena on the presence of any living animal in the nativity.

“Our petition was supported by over 17, 000 people and donkeys were removed from this year’s display. However, the show still went ahead with other animals. This practice puts animals at risk and implies that the use and exploitation of animals for entertainment purposes is justified.

“We have also filed a complaint against the man that caused the death of young Platero.

“According to the reform of the Criminal Code of July 1 2015, animal mistreatment is an offence that can be punished with 18 months of prison and disqualification from working with animals.”