A MAN who killed a dog through multiple vicious attacks has been spared jail because “prison would destroy his life”, a court has heard.

James Cooper, of Severn Avenue, Greenmeadow, walked from Swindon Magistrates' Court yesterday after admitting two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to two whippets.

Cooper, 23, pleaded guilty to the torrent of violence on six-year-old Millie.

Millie suffered what the court heard was blunt force trauma and went on to die as a result, months after he hit another whippet-like dog, called Tinkerbelle.

The court heard how Cooper and his girlfriend Katie Gardiner were looking after three-year-old Tinkerbelle for her step-mum, Carly Young, when the attacks happened.

When external injuries prompted a vet visit, Cooper had told vets that Tinkerbelle’s injuries, including multiple skin abrasions, were as a result of falling down the stairs.

Just days later, the dog was taken back to the vets but had other fractures, including an ulcer-type injury to her left eye.

In the weeks that followed Tinkerbelle suffered a human bite wound as well as injuries to her tail, which has since had to be amputated. She is now recovering.

Matthew Knight, prosecuting, told the court: “The defendant still hasn’t provided an explanation of what happened or why these offences occurred.

"In regard to Millie, the defendant said she had jumped over a six-foot fence and fell on some brambles, which is how she sustained the injury.”

Other excuses given to vets included that she had run into a patio door.

Mr Knight continued: “Millie suffered multiple fractured ribs and was killed by the defendant.

“However when asked he said the further injuries were caused by the fact he gave CPR.

“She suffered a number of blunt force trauma injuries and I am in no doubt that she was killed by the defendant. Her injuries were extensive, widespread and severe. In my opinion they were sustained on more than one occasion.

“There are striking similarities in the way both Millie and Tinkerbelle were assaulted front on, sustained multiple fractured ribs and swelling to the left side of her face.”

A post-mortem examination found Millie had emphysema and bruising – some that had been inflicted just 24 hours before she died.

Cooper had been due to face a trial and after he was convicted earlier this year, the RSPCA dropped the charges against his girlfriend Katie Gardiner, also 23, who denied the allegations.

Richard Williams, defending, said his client had suffered with a number of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, and was bullied at school, often finding it difficult to stand up for himself.

“In relation to the offences, there is not much I can add to make them any less distasteful," said Mr Williams.

"James Cooper has struggled in articulating and expressing exactly what happened.

“There is quite a lot that can shed some light on what has happened in James Cooper’s life. He had moved in with Katie Gardiner last year and it was his first serious relationship and the first time he moved away from home. He struggled and he accepts he lashed out at the dogs.

“He has dabbled in drink and drugs and has since abstained from those substances.”

District Judge Simon Cooper imposed a 12-week consecutive prison sentence for each offence to be suspended for two years.

He said: “Tinkerbelle made at least five visits to the vet for treatment while in your care and from that, examinations revealed that she had been severely beaten, suffering fractured ribs and a human bite wound and the effect on her was akin, in my judgement, to torture. Nonetheless she recovered, even if she had to have her tail amputated.

“Millie was taken back on the third examination while she had been in your care and you had been under investigation. They found her covered with wounds to the mouth and multiple fractured ribs which ultimately led to her death.

“I agree with the RSPCA that it is a difficult and disturbing case. You gave a variety of explanations for these offences but, in fact, you finally accepted your responsibility.

“This case has rumbled on for nine months due to your inability to accept your responsibility.

“I have come to the decision that an immediate prison sentence would utterly destroy you. What you did was vicious and savage but little would be achieved in the long run by sending you into custody.

“It has been an agonising and hard decision to come to. The most difficult decision of today is not to send this young man into immediate prison but it is one, in my long experience, that would completely destroy his life.”

Cooper must also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and despite his girlfriend Miss Gardiner owning a cockapoo, Loki, he was handed a lifetime disqualification of owning, keeping or in any way being responsible for an animal.

He must pay RSPCA’s court costs of £1,000 as well as £115 towards victim services.