A Leatherhead-based animal rescue charity has called on the Government to block new EU regulations which could lead to some animals being euthanised.

The Wildlife Aid Foundation is fighting against the Invasive Alien Species Order 2019, which targets non-indigenous wildlife.

The rules prevent the keeping and release of non-indigenous 'Alien Species' in the UK, such as grey squirrels and muntjac deer.

A statement signed by dozens of wildlife fund managers including Simon Cowell, the founder and CEO of The Wildlife Aid Foundation, as well as Pauline Kidner, founder and advisor of Secret World Wildlife Rescue, said that many species in the UK would suffer as a result of the legislation.

The statement said: "Under the new EU system, all rescue centres and veterinary surgeons in the UK will be required to euthanise animals bought to them.

"The result will be that any member of the public who finds a grey squirrel, muntjac deer or other 'alien species' and takes it to a centre will either be turned away, or the animal will be euthanised, no matter how healthy it is.

"The policy will have no impact on populations of non-indigenous species, as the number of animals released under the current licensing system are insignificant in terms of overall numbers."

Grey squirrels are not native to the UK and were first introduced in the 1870s. According to Woodland Trust, grey squirrels have dominated their red cousins — the Red Squirrel is native to the UK — following their introduction in the 19th century.

An article published on the Woodland Trust website read: "Numbers (of Red Squirrel) in the UK have fallen dramatically since grey squirrels were introduced as an ornamental species in the 1870s.

"Since then, the UK population of reds has dropped from around 3.5 million to between 120,000 to 160,000 individuals (according to different estimates). The population in England is thought to be as low as 15,000."

The new order will come into force on March 28, a day before the UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU,