Redcar pair jailed for burying dog alive with nail in head

Image caption, Michael Heathcock (left) and Richard Finch admitted animal welfare offences

Two men who buried a dog alive after hammering a nail into its skull have been jailed.

Michael Heathcock, 59 and Richard Finch, 60, had tried to kill the 16-year-old terrier called Scamp, claiming vet fees were too expensive.

At Teesside Crown Court the pair were sentenced to four months in prison and banned from keeping animals for life.

The men, both from Redcar, had previously pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences.

There was a large police presence outside the court as the sentences were passed, where about 40 members of the Save Our Strays charity mounted a demonstration.

The court heard Heathcock had owned the dog for about 15 years and had no previous issues with the animal.

A couple walking in Kirkleatham Woods, Redcar, in October, heard whimpering and found the dog in a mound of earth.

It was taken to a vet, who discovered three other puncture wounds to its head and described it as the worse case of animal cruelty he had ever seen.

Image source, RSPCA
Image caption, The dog's injuries were so severe it needed to be put down

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.

After the hearing, Redcar's Labour MP Anna Turley said the sentences handed down to the pair were "not enough".

She said: "I am pleased they have received a custodial sentence for what they did, but the punishment is still not enough for the severity of the crime.

"The judge is limited by current sentencing guidelines and they will probably only be in prison for two months.

"These cases highlight the inadequacy of the law in the area of animal abuse and why my bill for tougher sentences is so desperately needed.

"I will continue to press for my bill to be heard to increase the maximum sentence from six months to five years."

The RSPCA also called for tougher sentences.

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."

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