A man has been jailed for 18 weeks after admitting causing the death of a dog by taping its mouth shut.
Paul Hinton, 33, of Darlington, admitted at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court to five counts of animal cruelty.
The body of the mongrel dog, which he had taken in as a stray, was found by RSPCA officers at a property in April which Hinton was due to move into.
The animal, which Hinton claimed had bitten a relative, had its mouth forced shut with cable ties and adhesive tape.
At an earlier hearing, magistrates heard that Hinton, of Pensburry Street, had taken the stray dog into his home, but that it had become aggressive.
'Stuff of nightmares'
He claimed he bound the dog's mouth shut to protect his family.
He added that he had suffered personal problems and forgot he had left the dog unattended with its mouth taped shut.
The court was told a post-mortem examination found the dog died of heart failure brought on by trauma and impaired breathing.
The animal had also suffered wounds to the head and spine, which were attributed to kicking or beating.
RSPCA inspector Garry Palmer said: "What this dog went through is the stuff of nightmares, thinking about that has caused many a sleepless night for me since.
"The premeditated nature of what happened here makes it one of the most shocking cases I've ever dealt with.
"This dog had his mouth forced shut with cable ties and tape, most likely so he couldn't defend himself or alert anyone to his plight by making a noise. It was horrific."
Hinton has entered an appeal against the sentence.