ARE we becoming a society that values the lives of pets above people?  

Two court cases which revealed examples of horrifying levels of cruelty ended on Wednesday morning in Middlesbrough. Both resulted in jail sentences and the details that emerged in each would sicken any right-thinking person.

Outside Teesside Magistrates Court animal rights campaigners cheered when the verdict came through that Michael Heathcock and Richard Finch had been given four months in jail for hammering a nail into the head of a terrier, called Scamp, and burying it alive as part of what they claimed was a euthanasia attempt. "Rot in hell you scumbags," was yelled by a member of the public inside the packed courtroom as the twisted pair received the maximum possible sentence.

While the Scamp case drew to its conclusion, on the other side of Victoria Square no crowds had gathered outside the Combined Court where a case was being heard inside that shocked even seasoned reporters and court officials. No one was campaigning on behalf of the victims of Michael Dunn, a paedophile whose crimes have drawn comparison with the infamous abuser Josef Fritzl.

Dunn was jailed for 27 years for his terrifying catalogue of sex crimes against women and young girls, spanning five decades which included putting a victim in a hidey-hole behind his fridge guarded by German Shepherd dogs. 

The Echo has published regular reports of both cases on our website and noted that about five times more people have been reading the story of Scamp compared to the Dunn case. This trend is mirrored whenever we publish stories online about lost pets, which generate huge interest, thousands of web hits, and frantic calls on social media to track down the missing beasts, whereas similar calls for help trace missing children struggle to make any impression on the public.  

What does it say about our society when people will stand outside for hours on a chilly March morning to protest about a dead dog but no one makes a similar stance in a case of violence against women? 

Are we so inured to reports that reveal abuse suffered by human beings that it takes a case of cruelty towards a poor defenceless dog to spark us into action?

We support calls for tougher sentences for those who commit acts of animal cruelty. Had MP Anna Turley’s efforts not been stymied last week by Tory timewasters the penalty for such crimes could soon have been raised to five years behind bars. We want to see Ms Turley's campaign gain the support of Parliament and become law so it prevents other animals from suffering a similar fate to Scamp.  

But we also believe that human life should always be regarded as more important than the lives of family pets and no case no matter how distasteful will change that view.