A TOUGHER sentence should have been given to dog killer James Cooper who walked free from court last week, according to the owner of one of the whippets he violently attacked.

Cooper, 23, of Severn Avenue, Greenmeadow, narrowly avoided an immediate jail term after admitting two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to two whippets.

Instead, he was handed a 24-week prison sentence suspended for two years.

Cooper, along with his girlfriend Katie Gardiner, had been looking after three-year-old Tinkerbelle in August last year for her mother Helen when he carried out a torrent of vicious attacks on the dog.

In the three weeks that followed Tinkerbelle’s weight also plummeted to 9.3kg.

Cooper told vets Tinkerbelle’s injuries, including multiple skin abrasions, were as a result of falling down the stairs.

Four further visits were made to different vets with different injuries including an ulcer injury to her left eye, a human bite wound to her ear and a severed tail, which has since had to be amputated.

Red flags were raised by staff at the Vets Klinic after the injures did not match up with the stories Cooper told them, prompting them to call the RSPCA.

An investigation was launched and Cooper was told he would be prosecuted for inflicting the injuries. Charges against Katie Gardiner were dropped.

But now Katie’s mother Helen, who has lost all contact with her daughter since the case was opened, believes Cooper should have been jailed for not only beating Tinkerbelle but also killing six-year-old Millie, who was part of the same family, just months later.

Following the breakdown of Helen’s relationship, Millie stayed with Helen’s ex-partner, Carly Young.

Helen, 49, said: “Tinkerbelle had been to the vets five times and when I was called by the RSPCA, they didn’t know if she was going to make it through the night.

“It was when they scanned her microchip that my details came up and that’s why they contacted me while I was away.

“She is lucky to be alive and now because of everything that has happened, her pet insurance has become very expensive.

“It is no fault of hers or mine, but we are the ones who are suffering from it.

“The reason she nearly died was that if you felt her, her body, especially near her ribs, sounded like like bubble wrap because of the fractures.

“She still has issues. Her wounds might have healed but she will always be emotionally scarred.

“I think the sentence he got looks like a slap on the wrists.”

It was while awaiting a trial date that Cooper carried out the attacks on Millie in May, which Helen reported to the RSPCA.

Reasons given in court for not sending him into immediate custody was that the 23-year-old had been bullied at school, suffered with depression and anxiety and found it difficult to stand up for himself.

District judge Simon Cooper said: “I have come to the decision 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.”

But after posting her story online, Helen has been inundated with messages of support from fellow dog owners – with many starting a petition calling for a tougher sentence and one that would see the attacker jailed immediately.

“Tinkerbelle has been totally different since it happened,” Helen said.

“She is always frightened and when she first got back, she didn’t want to walk up or down the stairs, so I had to carry her.

“She was starving and I couldn’t feed her enough, all the time she wanted food.

“There needs to be something in place that all dogs are scanned for their microchip when they go to the vets and there should be shared information. If that happened, then they would have been able to tell that Tinkerbelle had been to many other vets before.

“Now she is like my shadow and she is right by my side all the time.

“She used to be really playful and happy.

“Most people have been bullied or been depressed or had anxiety and most people have never beaten an animal and killed it so I don’t think it was fair to use that as an excuse.”