A cheer went up outside Newcastle Court House on Monday when puppy killer Nathan Thompson was sentenced to 18 months jail.
The 25-year-old pleaded guilty to the brutal killing of a litter of puppies in Kurri Kurri in March this year.
Magistrate Robert Stone described the deaths as deplorable and distressing before he handed down sentence.
Thompson will be eligible for parole in 12 months and had been previously given a lifetime ban on animal ownership.
The sentence was handed down just after noon and came as a shock to his mother and girlfriend in the gallery.
Desperate shouts of “I love you” followed before Thompson was taken away by police.
It was a different story outside the courtroom where animal rights activists cheered at the result, but said the maximum penalty of five years would have been a better outcome.
“This is the catalyst,” activist and founder of animal rights group Time for 9 Tonya Bowen said.
“It shows that people in the Hunter are not going to rest on their laurels.
“It is time for reform of the animal act.”
Activists lined the streets to greet Thompson when he arrived at the courthouse yesterday morning.
He had already pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty and resisting arrest, and his appearance came down to the question of what constituted an adequate punishment.
The prosecution called for the maximum penalty of five years in prison, based on the brutality of the case.
A post-mortem report, based on the autopsies conducted by RSPCA veterinarian Simone Cooper, was tendered to the court.
It revealed the puppies suffered horrific deaths and, based on the amount of blood in their breathing canals, were still alive while being attacked by Thompson.
Their injuries included severe head trauma, blunt force trauma, catastrophic brain injury and herniation of the brain.
It was also revealed that Thompson disposed of the litter in two phases, within 45 minutes.
He chose to bash the puppies on the head with a brick and throw them into bushland.
But a witness walking his dogs heard the cries of the puppies and came to their aid, which interrupted Thompson’s disposal plans.
Thompson fled the scene only to find another isolated bush location and finish brutally killing the rest of the litter.
Mr Stone said the calculated method of death was senseless and cruel and had played a role in his decision to sentence Thompson to jail.
The defence argued that Thompson thought the method was an efficient and pain-free way to get rid of the pups.
He claimed he was asked to dispose of the dogs by his friend of eight years, Tony Brown.
The defence also revealed that Thompson was a daily cannabis user and had been on an ice binge three days before the killings.
Defence asked for a non-custodial sentence and said Thompson would benefit from rehabilitation, as he had a long history of drug abuse.
During sentencing, Mr Stone said he did not accept that Thompson was under the influence of ice at the time of the offence and was sceptical of his prospects of rehabilitation.
RSPCA chief inspector David O’Shannessy addressed the media after the court hearing.
He said the RSPCA was happy with the result and hoped it would send a strong message to the community about animal cruelty.
He said this attack was out of the ordinary and had caused distress for the public as well as RSPCA staff.