A dog owner who bludgeoned his pet to death with a hammer and burnt the remains after it attacked a young girl has been sentenced to four months' jail.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard Wayne McGrath had inflicted "unimaginable pain" on an American bulldog-type pet that had left the eight-year-old scarred and traumatised.
The 47-year-old, of Marsden Gardens in the city, was also banned from keeping any animals for life.
His lawyer described it as one of the worst cases of its kind ever dealt with in Northern Ireland.
McGrath admitted charges of being the keeper of a dog involved in an attack and causing it unnecessary suffering.
The girl was mauled while the animal was off its lead at Kinnaird Avenue in north Belfast in May last year. Witnesses described seeing the animal shake and trail her by the hair.
McGrath and another man started punching and kicking the dog in a bid to break its hold.
At one point the girl managed to get free and fled, but the animal shook off a chain put round its neck and ran after her.
A prosecution lawyer told the court: "The dog caught up with the child and got on top of her. It was shaking her and mauling at her chest."
The two men managed to grab the animal by the scruff of the neck while the girl was led to the safety of a car. The child was taken to hospital for treatment to a puncture mark to her head and a further 15 wounds, bites or slashes to her body, the court heard.
She underwent three hours of surgery to repair lacerations to her temple, shoulder and arm.
"Since the attack the child has had difficulty eating and sleeping and is not as outgoing as she previously was," the lawyer told the hearing.
The next day police checked to see if the owner had handed the animal over to the dog warden to be humanely destroyed.
The defendant then confessed to killing the dog with a hammer and burning the body.
During interviews he claimed to have carried out the killing 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," prosecution counsel said.
"He said the dog cried out when hit and there was some blood. He alleged that he received threats to his life, he was under pressure to dispose of the dog and that he had no money to take the dog to a vet to be humanely euthanised."
Searches at the dump found no evidence of animal remains or burnt wheelie bins.
According to the prosecution, the dog was subjected to unnecessary cruelty.
"In the final moments of its life, the animal would have experienced unimaginable pain and fear inflicted by its carer," the lawyer argued.
"There's no way to ascertain if the first blow from the hammer would have rendered the dog insensible, and the owner ascertained that a further blow was indeed required."
Medical reports disclosed the child still suffered from anxiety and only leaves the house to go to school.
She will not use mirrors because of scars that will require skin grafts when she is older and she is self-conscious about what she wears.
Defence barrister Sean O'Hare acknowledged the shocking circumstances.
He told District Judge George Conner: "This is probably one of the most serious cases you will have to deal within this jurisdiction and within this court."
Sentencing McGrath to four months in prison, District Judge George Conner told him: "This is a terrible case whereby lasting injury has been caused to a young girl.
"The manner in which you dealt with the dog was just quite appalling.
"I have no doubt in my mind that unnecessary suffering was caused to that animal."
The judge also confirmed that he was imposing a lifetime ban on McGrath keeping any type of animal.
The defendant was released on bail pending an appeal against the jail term.