WHEN Daniel Dearing moved home, he simply left his three Staffordshire bull terriers behind.

But by the time the RSPCA were called, they found two of the dogs in an emaciated state - even though they had been forced to survive by eating the third, a court heard.

Dearing, 21, was jailed for two months and disqualified from keeping a pet for life yesterday after admitting two cruelty offences.

John Ellwood, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said inspectors were called to a house in Milton Avenue, in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, on May 27.

They found two emaciated six-month-old Staffordshire bull terriers named Ganja and Tigger wandering between the kitchen and yard.

They also saw a third dog's head lying in the middle of the floor with teeth marks in its skull. In the corner of the room, they discovered the rest of the body of Spot, the sister of the two other dogs.

Mr Ellwood told Peterlee magistrates: "The smell was appalling from the decaying body and canine faeces littering the floor.''

Ganja and Tigger were examined by a vet, who found the dogs were almost half their normal body weight. Both have been re-homed.

Dearing, who moved to Middle Street a couple of days earlier, leaving the dogs behind, said he had been trying to rehome the dogs and admitted he was "more bothered about himself than the three pets".

He claimed that he had fed the dogs, but conceded there were occasions of up to 48 hours at a time when he had not.

Bill Davison, mitigating, said Dearing was an immature man of previous good character who, at the time, "bore all the hallmarks of being clinically depressed".

Jailing Dearing, chairman of the bench Mrs Pat Baxter said: "The offences are so serious we must impose a custodial sentence."

After the hearing, RSPCA Inspector Garry Palmer said: "This was one of the worst cases I have had to deal with.

"It is as bad as it gets when an animal has to pay with its life. It is rare that a custodial sentence is imposed in such cases, and I hope this sends out a message to others."