A New Houghton couple who left four dogs to starve while they went on holiday to Skegness has been spared jail.
RSPCA inspectors were called to the home of Martin David Clifton and Rebecca Louise Clifton after an anonymous call last October.
Inside they found blood splattered over the walls, animals in their own faeces and a dead dog with half its face eaten away by another starving canine.
Prosecuting, David Payne said that the dog, called Braken, had been killed fighting with the other two Staffies, Tyke and Dude, that had been left free in the house, and had been eaten by the Rottweiler, called Rox, out of desperation.
He said: “The Rottweiler was pulling at the head of the dog and eating it. The owners caused the dogs to suffer by keeping them in confined spaces and by preventing them from demonstrating normal canine behaviour.”
He added that at the time the surviving dogs were taken into care on October 19th last year, the Rottweiler was less than half its normal weight and the two Staffies were also severely malnourished.
After more than six months in care, Rox is still between five and 10 kilos below her ideal weight.
The Cliftons, of Pavilion Gardens, New Houghton, admitted cruelty charges at a previous hearing, and the case was adjourned until Thursday 26th June for probation reports.
The husband and wife had lived on Chapel Terrace, Newstead Village, last October when the RSPCA had gone to their house, accompanied by the police and a vet.
The private prosecution was brought against the couple by the RSPCA, and outlining the case in court, Mr Payne, explained that the couple had been away in Skegness for a few days when the dogs were found.
Defending the couple, Sarah Neale said the Cliftons had two autistic sons who would not cope if they were sent to prison. She added that Rebecca Clifton feared she would lose her job and her home.
The Cliftons were both sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months. They were also banned from keeping dogs for seven years and ordered to pay £2,000 towards prosecution costs.
Speaking after the sentencing, RSPCA investigator Mick Darling said: “It sends a clear message to people to take care of their animals.”