A MAN who was filmed kicking his pet dog in the ribs has been banned from keeping animals for three years.

Mobile phone footage played at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court showed Jon Soley forcefully kicking his Patterdale Terrier after it had caught a rabbit.

Onlookers can also be heard laughing and cheering as the 33-year-old, of Corbridge Crescent, Darlington, repeatedly hits the dog in the face with the rabbit.

He initially denied causing unnecessary suffering to the dog, named Billy, and another of failing to meet its needs by not seeking veterinary treatment for a mouth ulcer, but was found guilty following a trial.

He also admitted two offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of possessing a cage trap and attempting to take a wild bird.

Kevin Campbell, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, told the court: “He struck the dog and caused it to suffer. Anyone who treats a dog like that causes it to suffer.”

In mitigation, John Grierson said that while he agreed the footage was disturbing, his client had no previous convictions for animal cruelty and had kept dogs all his life.

He told the court Soley had not sought treatment for his pet’s mouth ulcer because it did not appear to be causing him any discomfort.

“Billy was a family pet - he went out for walks with the children in the family. He will regret the loss of the dog,” he said.

As well as a three-year ban on keeping animals, magistrates also sentenced Soley to a 12-month community order with 80 hours of unpaid work.

He must also pay court costs of £1,200, a £60 victim surcharge and vet fees of £360.

Billy was signed over to the RSPCA and magistrates ordered the destruction of the mobile phone and bird cages.

Soley was arrested during dawn raids in May last year as part of Operation Stockholm - a joint initiative by the RSPCA and Darlington police to tackle animal cruelty in the area.

Speaking after the hearing, RSPCA chief inspector Mark Gent said he was pleased with the result and hoped it would act as a deterrent for others.

He said: “This is a prime example of where we have undertaken a joint operation focussing on things that have been put on the internet and brought those people to justice.”