Animal charities are calling for tougher sentencing after two men who hammered a nail into a dog’s head and buried him alive were jailed for just four months.
Richard Finch, 60, and Michael Heathcock, 59, both from Redcar, were sentenced at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to charges relating to the death of the dog, named Scamp.
During the case the vet who first saw the 16-year-old terrier said it was the worst incident of animal cruelty he had ever seen.
The court heard Heathcock told RSPCA inspectors that “something had to be done” because the dog was starting to go blind, deaf and was incontinent.
Heathcock had pleaded guilty to driving a nail into Scamp’s skull when he was still alive, as well as failing to provide veterinary care and attention to the dog. He claimed he was unable to afford euthanasia. Finch admitted assisting in the act.
Dog walkers found Scamp whimpering in a shallow grave and rushed him to a Redcar vet but his injuries were so severe he had to be put to sleep.
David Bowles, head of external affairs at the RSPCA, said: “Scamp’s ordeal was horrific and heartbreaking and the sentence handed out to his killers will upset and anger animal lovers.
“This terrible case is the perfect illustration as to why we need to give magistrates and judges powers to give tougher sentences for the most appalling cases of cruelty and neglect.
“The magistrate gave the longest sentence they could after taking time off for guilty pleas. It’s possible they will only end up serving eight weeks.
Battersea Chief Executive Claire Horton said: “The unimaginable suffering Scamp endured at the hands of his owner, a person he should have been able to trust implicitly, will horrify the nation.
“The two men responsible have been sentenced to just four months in prison. Why? Because magistrates are unable to issue anything more than six months for even the most appalling and callous acts of animal cruelty. England and Wales’ maximum sentence simply must change. Four months for what was done to Scamp is neither a fitting punishment nor a deterrent.
“Animal lovers will surely want to come together and join Battersea and other respected animal welfare charities so we can make our collective voice heard for animals like Scamp.
“Our tougher sentencing campaign is already making its mark. We’re asking the public to write to their MP and call for a five-year sentence for such shocking acts of cruelty as we need the punishment to fit the crime.”