WARNING: The below story may contain some details readers might find distressing 

A SICK animal abuser has been slammed behind bars and banned from owning pets after his dog was found dead in a garden after being left looking "like a skeleton".

Daryl Burgess, 31, of Chantry Close, Clacton, was sentenced to 23 weeks in prison at Colchester Magistrates' Court on December 21 after severely neglecting his dog Patch.

The defendant was also disqualified from keeping all animals for life and ordered to pay £300 costs and a £154 victim surcharge.

He was sentenced after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a dog by failing to adequately explore and address the dog’s weight loss.

The court heard the body of Patch, a large mastiff type dog, had been discovered by the police in the former property of Burgess on January 12 last year.

Echo: Breed - Patch was a large mastiff type dog, like this oneBreed - Patch was a large mastiff type dog, like this one (Image: Pixabay)

Officers visited the home after pursuing a suspect who was garden hopping, before they were found hiding in the garden which belonged to Burgess. 

It was there the malnourished body of poor Patch was discovered before an investigation was launched by the RSPCA.

RSPCA inspector Emma Beynon said: “I was shocked and upset to see the condition he was in.

"Every single bone could be seen in his body, he looked like a skeleton. Patch would not have even been two years old.”

A vet who examined Patch’s body said the dog’s body condition score was zero out of nine.

They said in their report: “I can say in my opinion the owner/caregiver of the dog should have noticed he was zero out of nine and sought medical advice and treatment.

"By not seeking veterinary advice they would have been failing to meet the animal's needs, causing the suffering of the animal.

"It would have taken days to weeks to reach a body condition score this low.”

Speaking after the conviction, inspector Beynon described the case as "truly heart-breaking".

She added: “This was a deliberate disregard for Patch which resulted in his sad death. 

"Pets are completely reliant on their owners to ensure their needs are met and they are kept safe and healthy.

"Owning an animal is a privilege - and ensuring appropriate care is a key part of the responsibility we have towards our pets.

"It’s so sad that, in this instance, that responsibility was not met and Patch was left to suffer.”

In mitigation Burgess, who represented himself, said it was an unfortunate event and was sorry it happened.