A MAN was jailed yesterday after he admitted beating the family pet in front of his children.

Wayne Pearce, 37, of Byland Court, Washington, Wearside, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to Jack the collie dog, at a hearing in Sunderland earlier this month.

He had attacked the dog at the family home in March 2002.

The burnt body of a dog, believed to be Jack, was found later at a place known locally as The Big Hill, in Glebe, Washington.

But Pearce insisted he had only beaten the dog with a stick and denied he did not kill the animal or set it alight. He claimed to have given the dog away to another man before its death.

Pearce appeared at Houghton Magistrate's Court yesterday, where he was jailed for six months - the maximum possible sentence - and banned from keeping animals for life.

Alan Griffin, chairman of the bench, said: "The dog was treated by yourself with callous brutality.

"The events were seen by members of your family, including the children, which had an impact on them and no doubt will have for the rest of their lives."

Gavin Sword, defending, said Pearce had already been punished, as he was still shunned by neighbours and had not felt safe enough to go home until seven weeks after the incident.

The court was told how Pearce had returned home at 7.30am, from an all-night drinking session. An argument followed with his 15-year-old daughter and Pearce lashed out at her.

The dog, trained by Pearce to protect the girl and her 11-year-old brother, reacted and bit its owner's leg.

Pearce took the dog into the garden and beat it with a stick.

He then got the dog's lead and took it away from the family home, saying that the animal was going to die, the court was told. It was never seen alive by the family again.

RSPCA chief inspector Michelle Charlton said she was pleased with the outcome.

"If you are going to commit a brutal attack of cruelty then a prison sentence should follow," she said.