A WOMAN has escaped a ban from keeping animals after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to her dog.

Gillian Hotton, of Rydal Road, Darlington, appeared before Bishop Auckland magistrates for sentencing after she accepted she should have sought veterinary assistance when the labrador-cross dog started losing weight.

Graham Huntley, on behalf of Hotton, told the court that his client had suffered depression at the time the pet, Cassie, became thin.

He said that Hotton had since been treated for her illness and was now fighting back, having got herself a new job.

He said: "You are dealing with a very different woman than the person the RSPCA dealt with back then."

Hotton still had two other dogs which the RSPCA felt were kept in a reasonable condition, and Mr Huntley said that she relied on the pets for company and would not want to lose them. Cassie had been found a home with another family.

Magistrates told Hotton they felt she had been through a lot and had cared adequately for her other dogs.

They sentenced her to six months rehabilitation, but allowed her to keep her pets, asking the RSPCA to make interim visits to make sure she was managing.