Michael Alan Heathcock and Richard Mark Anthony Finch, from Redcar, have been sentenced to four months in jail for hammering a nail through a dog's skull and then burying him alive. The terrier cross, named Scamp, was found whimpering under a mound of earth in Kirkleatham Woods, with the nail sticking out from between his eyes, by a couple out on a walk. While still alive when taken to a nearby vet, Scamp was in such poor condition that there was no choice but to put him to sleep.
Following appeals for information in the media, the two were arrested on 21 October 2016, two days after the grim discovery. As it turned out Heathcock, who was Scamp's owner, had meant to put the dog out of his misery. Scamp suffered from an untreated brain tumour, which caused several symptoms - incontinence, inappetence, hind limb weakness and disorientation. Rather than taking him to a vet, Heathcock allowed his condition to deteriorate before attempting to euthanase him in his own way because, he told the court, he couldn't afford paying for a vet.
Heathcock and Finch, who assisted him, both explained they left the scene without realising Scamp was still alive.
RSPCA Inspector Jones said, "Scamp had been suffering for months but instead of seeking veterinary treatment his owner and his owner’s friend decided to take him to a secluded spot in the woods and hammered a nail into his head. There were four indentations in his skull, where they had attempted to hammer the nail in and failed. Scamp had also suffered a burst skull fracture from a large trauma ‘such as a hammer’. It's very hard to think about what he went through. It’s been a truly harrowing case for everyone involved.
"The only consolation is that Scamp’s final moments were spent being comforted by the kind strangers who found him, and the wonderful staff at the vets."
In addition to the four months sentence, the two were disqualified from keeping animals for life and were each ordered to pay £100 costs and £115 victim surcharge - a sentence that seems far too lenient. Battersea Dogs and Cats home, who recently launched a campaign in Parliament calling for an increase in the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences in England and Wales to five years in prison, took the Redcar case as an example of the dire need of tougher punishments for animal cruelty.
Battersea’s 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.”
Image by RSPCA.