Two men have been jailed for driving a nail through a dog’s head in a DIY euthanasia attempt and then burying it alive because they claimed vet fees were too expensive.

An x-ray showing the nail that was hammered through Scamp’s skull. Image: RSPCA.

The elderly terrier, called Scamp, was heard whimpering from under a mound of earth in Kirkleatham Woods, Redcar last October by passing walkers. He was dug out alive, but had to be euthanised by local vets due to his horrific injuries.

Four-month jail terms

Today (1 March), Michael Heathcock, 59, and Richard Finch, 60, who had previously pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences, were each jailed for four months and banned from keeping animals for life.

A large police presence was outside Teeside Magistrates’ Court as the sentences were passed, where about 40 members of the Save Our Strays charity mounted an angry demonstration.

The court heard the defendants, both from Redcar, decided to carry 16-year-old Scamp – who was deaf, blind and incontinent – to the wood, along with a claw hammer and a nail, before digging a hole to bury the dog.

Worst case in 30 years

John Ellwood, prosecuting for the RSPCA, told the court a vet concluded there would have been a minimum of six blows to the nail required to drive it through the helpless animal’s skull, adding it was the worst case of animal cruelty he had seen in 30 years of veterinary practice.

The court was told Heathcock thought he could not afford to have the elderly animal euthanised, believing it would cost £300, so they decided to do it themselves.

In jailing them, chairman of the bench Frances Linsley said: “This was a barbaric act that was premeditated and caused untold suffering to the dog Scamp.”

Dominic Tate, defending, claimed Heathcock loved the dog and “after 16 years of having Scamp and caring for the dog, this was not his intention”.

He said: “He did not set out to cause unnecessary suffering.”

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