A WOMAN has been given a suspended prison sentence for leaving her two dogs to starve to death in a locked cage.

RSPCA officers were called to the Darlington property in April after the decomposing bodies of the saluki dogs were discovered by the former landlady of 20-year-old Eloise Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, of Ida Place, Newton Aycliffe, had left the property a month before, leaving the caged dogs unable to access the food that was later found rotting in the kitchen.

She pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs by failing to provide them with an adequate diet when she appeared at Darlington Magistrates’ Court today (Wednesday, July 23).

Hutchinson admitted she had revisited the property around a week after she left and the abandoned dogs were still alive as she heard them barking, but she was too scared to look in.

She said she had struggled to pay for their food and was unprepared for the commitment of having dogs.

The dogs were about eight months old at the time of their deaths and had been in Hutchinson’s care since they were young puppies.

Magistrates punished Hutchinson with a 12-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months as well as 120 hours unpaid work.

She was also banned from keeping animals for ten years - and can not appeal for five years - as well as being fined £400 and ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge.

RSPCA Inspector Claire Wilson welcomed the sentence, saying: “This was the most distressing case I have ever dealt with and the poor dogs clearly suffered for a long time prior to their death.

“This case was so severe and I am pleased the magistrate recognised this and handed out a lengthy ban on keeping animals.”