A man who said he killed his pet dog with a hammer and burnt the remains after the animal mauled a child has been given a four-month prison term.
Wayne McGrath, of Marsden Gardens in Belfast, told police he killed his dog a day after it attacked an eight-year-old girl in north Belfast in May 2019.
Police did not find evidence of the burnt remains but a court heard McGrath caused "unimaginable pain" to the dog.
His lawyer described it as one of the worst cases of its kind ever in NI.
McGrath was released on bail, pending an appeal against his jail sentence.
The 47-year-old, who admitted charges of being the keeper of a dog involved in an attack and causing it unnecessary suffering, was also given a lifetime ban against keeping any animals.
Bitten and mauled
Belfast Magistrates' Court was told McGrath's American bulldog-type dog was not on a lead when it attacked the girl at Kinnaird Avenue.
The child was bitten and mauled, and witnesses described seeing the dog shake and trail the child by the hair.
McGrath and another man punched and kicked the dog in a bid to break its hold on the girl, the court heard.
She then fled, but the animal shook off a chain put round its neck and began chasing her.
"The dog caught up with the child and got on top of her, and was shaking her and mauling at her chest," a prosecution lawyer told the court.
The two men then grabbed the dog and restrained it, while the girl was led to safety.
Having suffered 16 wounds, she later underwent three hours of surgery to repair lacerations to her front temple, shoulder and arm.
McGrath was questioned at the scene by police, who took both him and the dog back to his partner's house.
The following day officers checked to see if he had handed over the animal to be humanely destroyed, but McGrath told them he had killed the dog himself.
No remains found
The court heard he had received death threats and was under pressure to dispose of the dog, but did not have the money to take the animal to a vet to be euthanised.
No remains of the dog were found when police searched McGrath's home, but during interviews he claimed to killed the animal at a dump near Ligoniel.
"He admitted killing the dog by hitting it over the crown of the head with a hammer twice, and then putting its remains in a wheelie bin, covering it with copper wire and petrol, and setting the remains and the tools he used on fire," a prosecution barrister said.
But no evidence of dog remains or the burnt bins were found during further searches of the dump area either.
The court heard McGrath's admissions were the only evidence that the dog had died in the way described.
The prosecution said the animal had been subjected to unnecessary cruelty.
"A blow to the head with a hammer would cause a lot of damage, trauma and pain," the lawyer argued.
"In the final moments of its life the animal would have experienced unimaginable pain and fear inflicted by its carer.
"There's no way to ascertain if the first blow from the hammer would have rendered the dog insensible, and the owner ascertained a further blow was indeed required."
The court heard the injured girl will require skin grafts when she is older and she has been left traumatised by the attack.
A defence barrister said McGrath acted out of fear, having received a visit from people connected to an unnamed criminal organisation.
"He's accepted responsibility for what he has done," McGrath's barrister added.
The judge said it was a "terrible case" in which a girl had sustained "lasting injury" and a dog was treated in an "appalling" manner.
"I have no doubt in my mind that unnecessary suffering was caused to that animal."
He sentencing McGrath to four months in prison but that term is now subject to appeal.