The death of an emaciated lurcher has been described as the among the 'worst case of animal cruelty’ ever seen by a local magistrate.

Deborah-Marie May, currently of no fixed abode, formerly of Milford Haven, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a dog when she appeared before Haverfordwest magistrates on Monday.

She admitted failing to exercise reasonable care and supervision between October 22 and December 22, which led to the death of her crossbreed dog.

The court heard that a RSPCA inspector met May, aged 25, when he called at a Milford Haven property on December 22.

She told him she had been living in Swindon for the past six months, and returned to the town after receiving a call saying that her dog had died.

The emaciated body of Lenny, a lurcher-type dog, was found under a sheet inside the house and taken to a vet for examination.

Photographs were provided to the court but are too graphic to be published. 

Nick Devonald, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said: “During the examination it was confirmed that the male, lurcher-type dog would have been suffering prior to death, due to its emaciation.

“It would have been several weeks, if not months, to reach the level of emaciation witnessed.”

In interview, May stated that the dog had been left with another person when she moved to Swindon for work.

She noticed that the dog had lost weight and was suffering from a flea infestation on a previous visit, and had bought medication for him.

Mr Devonald added: “The RSPCA says that this is the highest level of harm, because of the death of the animal.”

The court heard that May, who had no previous convictions, had owned Lenny for five to six years, and agreed that she had not offered any financial assistance towards the dog’s care while she was away.

David Williams, defending, said May had promptly returned to face the music following Lenny’s death, and had previously rescued him from a situation where he had been ‘used or abused’ as a hunting dog.

“Pleading guilty for Miss May is a dreadful admission of how she failed this dog which was dear to her.”

Mr Williams added: “She is deeply remorseful for what happened. She feels morally guilty and feels very, very bad that this poor dog died in the way in which it did.”

Mr Williams told the court that May had always lived in households with animals, and described herself as a ‘dog lover’.

Magistrates imposed a 22 week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and imposed 150 hours unpaid work and a ten day rehabilitation activity requirement.

She was also ordered to pay £300 prosecution costs and a £115 surcharge.

The chairman of the bench said: “This is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty that I have seen in my career to date.”

May was banned from keeping animals for five years.