A SHODDY snapper has been banned from keeping animals for 20 years after leaving a dog so ill, inspectors thought she was dead.
Clayton Bennett initially made national news for his woeful wedding shots, then landed himself in court for assaulting the ex-husband of the wife he met while covering their marriage day.
Now he has been back before magistrates over an RSPCA prosecution for cruelty to his dog Sable.
Inspectors discovered the 18-year-old springer spaniel in a pen outside Bennett’s former home in Cedar Terrace, Fence Houses, with matted fur under her eyes and feet, and infected claws which had grown into her pads.
They found she was underweight and thought she was dead when they first saw her, because she seemed unresponsive and her eyes were cloudy.
The pet piled on weight once under the care of a vet, but later had to be put down because of a condition unrelated to Bennett’s neglect.
At Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, he admitted two charges of causing unnecessary suffering, and one of failing in his duty as a person responsible for the pet to ensure its welfare.
RSPCA prosecutor Clive McKeag said when asked if he should have sought veterinary treatment, Bennett accused officers of asking leading questions and refused to answer any more as he believed they would use them in a case against him.
He also believed the pet’s condition was down to her age and metabolism.
Mr McKeag said: “It wasn’t just one thing wrong with the dog, it was in an emaciated state.
“The fact is, it had been left untreated for a long period of time.”
Bennett had eight dogs, but he had rehomed the rest after his wife gave birth.
Magistrates were told he had been under stress after his wife left him after losing their second child, leaving him to care for an 18-month-old and his 88-year-old father, as well as a failing pub.
His wife has since returned and they are back together.
Peter Thubron, mitigating, said: “He was under terrific personal pressure at that time.
“He states he felt so upset, he can’t talk about it.”
Chairman of the bench Derek Moss ordered Bennett, 52, now of Sydney Street, Fence Houses, to serve a six-month community order with supervision, and to pay £534 in veterinary fees and a £60 victim surcharge.
After the case, RSPCA inspector Lindsey Every told the Echo: “This was an incredibly sad case.
“The poor dog was unbelievably thin and had nails so overgrown, they had curled back into her feet.
“She was clearly suffering and should have seen a vet a lot sooner.
“It is simply no excuse just to say an animal is ill just because he or she is old.
“Whatever their age, an animal should be taken to the vet and treated for anything which is wrong with them.
“If they are properly cared for, they can live out happy and pain-free old ages as well as longer lives free of suffering.”