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Couple hanged dog to dodge £100 vet fee to have it put down

A couple who hanged a dog because they did not want to pay to have it put down have been spared jail.

Veronica Reid, 42, and Jon Allen, 27, hatched a plan with friend Paul Brown, 52, to kill the collie dog, called Shandy.

Salisbury Magistrates' Court heard how Allen and Brown had gone to a veterinary practice in Trowbridge, Wiltshire on January 17 this year to inquire about having the dog put down because it was too aggressive.

They were told the animal would have to be assessed and the procedure would cost more than £100.

Matthew Knight, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said the vet noted the pair seemed concerned about the cost.

The next day the three defendants hanged the dog from a loft hatch at Reid's home in Trowbridge.

"Miss Reid said they discussed how they were going to kill the dog. She said 'Do anything, shoot him, just get rid of him'," Mr Knight said.

The court heard that as the dog died Reid - who had been left the dog by a previous partner - shut herself in a bedroom as she could not face watching it die.

Neither Allen nor Brown would admit who climbed into the loft to hoist the dog up and blamed each other.

But Brown did later admit to punching Shandy in the face to "put it out of its misery" as the dog struggled for life.

Mr Knight told the court: "I would suggest it is a joint enterprise and it makes little difference who actually went into the loft.

"A judicial hanging is from a short drop and breaks the neck. The X-rays showed no fracture - the dog was pulled slowly up.

"A veterinary report found the dog died as a result of a significant period of pain and distress lasting several minutes. Shandy suffered an unnecessary and painful death as a result."

The dog's body was buried in Reid's garden. The RSPCA began investigating in March following a conversation with a neighbour.

Allen, who is in a relationship with Reid, told investigators that his girlfriend had "wanted rid of the dog for a long time".

All three defendants had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

Brown, of Okehampton Road, Exeter, Devon failed to attend court today for sentencing and magistrates issued a warrant for his arrest.

Reid and Allen, both of Woolpack Meadows, Trowbridge did attend and their solicitors both told the court how they had suffered "vilification" in the local community.

Nick Redhead, for Reid, said she was the sole carer for her disabled 20-year-old daughter and her sick mother.

"She accepts that she knew what was going to happen to the dog," Mr Redhead said.

"Had the three defendants not co-operated with the RSPCA it is very unlikely it would be a court case at all.

"She is in no doubt as to the gravity of the position she finds herself in today. She has suffered a degree of vilification in her community has a consequence."

Esther Bisgrove, for Allen, said he suffered from learning difficulties.

"He is a man who is greatly ashamed," she said.

"Mr Allen is appalled by his actions. He has suffered abuse by vigilantes in the community and through social media."

Sylvia Aitken-Sykes, chair of the bench, sentenced Reid to 18 weeks' imprisonment and Allen 23 weeks' custody - both suspended for 18 months.

She told Reid: "This was a particularly nasty and revolting act.

"The reasons we have suspended your sentence is that you care for two family members and you have shown remorse for what you have done and you co-operated with the RSPCA in their inquiries."

Mrs Aitken-Sykes told Allen: "It was a particularly nasty thing to do, as I know you are aware of. It was a joint enterprise and pre-planned and resulted in the death of a dog."

Reid was also placed on a tagged curfew, from 9pm to 7am, for six months while Allen was given 300 hours of unpaid work.

Both were banned from keeping animals for 10 years and ordered to pay £100 towards prosecution costs of £2,845.50 and the £80 victim surcharge.

Inspector Miranda Albinson, of the RSPCA, said she was disappointed with the sentences.

"We were hoping for a lifetime ban on keeping animals but we also respect the court's decision in explaining the reasoning for the sentences," she said.

"Hanging a dog is a horrific thing to do. Why would you even think it was a suitable way to euthanise an animal?

"There are other options, such as help from charities or payment plans from vets which could have been discussed the next day."

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