The USPCA has slammed the penalty imposed on a Ballymena man who received a six -month suspended sentence after his dog starved to death.
Paul Sempey (37) from Queen Street in the Co Antrim town, was sentenced at Ballymena Magistrates Court yesterday, after previously pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering and failing to ensure the welfare of a Staffordshire bull terrier-type dog for which he was responsible.
However, the USPCA said the man should have been sent to jail.
The charges were brought against Sempey by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council under the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011.
The charges related to findings following an investigation by animal welfare officers regarding offences in January 2015.
Upon visiting Sempey's property, an animal welfare officer discovered a dog that was severely emaciated, being less than half its expected body weight and in its final hours of life.
Sempey was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to pay legal costs of £116. In addition, he was disqualified for life from the keeping of any warm-blooded animal.
David Wilson from the USPCA said people should receive custodial sentences for these crimes.
He added: "This man deserves to have a custodial sentence imposed to give him time to reflect on what happened.
"He allowed the situation to go on, but now he can walk free over Christmas thanks to this suspended sentence.
"The USPCA does welcome the lifetime ban imposed on this man, particularly as it includes any warm-blooded animal.
"However, one of the main issues the USPCA has with these bans is that there is no central register to keep a note of these people who have received bans.
"We have been calling for this register for some time and it is currently under review."
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: "Council gives a high priority to the welfare of domestic pets and horses, and operates a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure full compliance of regulatory requirements.
"Complaints are investigated thoroughly and where necessary formal action is taken, which may include the service of improvement notices or, in extreme cases, the seizure of animals.
"The council may also prosecute for offences, such as in this particularly harrowing case, which I hope serves as a warning to anyone who does not take appropriate care of animals."