MORE than 55,000 people have signed a petition after a rescue dog was hit over the head with a hammer and strangled with a washing line before being dumped in the River Tyne.

Molly, a German Shepherd rescue dog, was then dumped in the River Tyne by her owner Melvyn Hall, who was given a suspended sentence by magistrates last month.

Thousands of people have now signed a petition calling for “real” justice for Molly, describing the sentence as “a joke”.

In court, Hall, of Ashfield Mews, Wallsend, near Newcastle, had said he was trying to hit a mouse with the hammer and hit Molly accidently, cradling her in his arms until she died.

A post-mortem revealed Molly had several skull fractures and evidence of haemorrhaging, but it was unlikely those injuries caused immediate death.

In mitigation the court heard that Hall, 71, was of previous good character, worked in the NHS for 46 years and as a magistrate for five years.

He was sentenced to 18weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, a lifetime disqualification on all animals except goldfish and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

The petition calls for Hall to be given a custodial sentence of six months, which is the maximum for offences of this type.

Julie Murray, who started the petition, said: "The current maximum sentence advised for extreme animal cruelty is a six-month custodial sentence.

"What he did is the total definition of extreme animal cruelty. But he did not get one single day in custody.

"Where's the deterrent for animal cruelty? Where's the justice for the animal that suffered? There's no justice for what happened."