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10 February 2015, 12:22
A record number of people were banned from keeping animals last year following "unimaginable'' cases of cruelty investigated by an animal welfare charity.
The Scottish SPCA said 63 disqualification orders - 12 of which were for life - were handed out by Scottish courts in 2014, a 66% increase on the 38 given out four years ago.
Fines issued came in at more than £23,000 and 35 people were sentenced to community service orders in the last 12 months.
Inspectors said one of the most "harrowing'' cases they dealt with involved a dog being burned alive in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
Following a joint investigation with police, a man was jailed for nine months and banned from keeping animals for life after he admitted tying the dog to a tree, dousing him in petrol and burning him to death.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "The number of people banned from owning animals in Scotland is now at a record level and some of the cruelty we encounter is unimaginable.
"We rely on the public to be our eyes and ears, and while it is reassuring that so many people are willing to stand up and speak out, the violence and abuse of animals we are dealing with is unacceptable.
"I have worked for the society for 28 years but the cases reported to us continue to shock and disgust me. The incident involving the burned dog in Fife was particularly harrowing. It is disturbing that anyone could carry out such a barbaric, premeditated attack on a defenceless dog.
"The incidents attended by our inspectors and animal rescue officers, which included investigations, rescues and abandonments, rose to over 78,000 last year and the strain on our resources has never been greater.
"One of the reasons we are uncovering an increasing amount of abuse and neglect may be because more people know who we are and are calling our helpline.
"We'll keep urging the public to contact us if they know of an animal in need of help and it is thanks to these people we can still, on the whole, call ourselves a nation of animal lovers.''
Other cases highlighted by the charity include a man from Stirling who was jailed for 15 weeks and banned from having contact with animals for life after his elderly dog was starved until he was half his ideal weight.
Two farmers from Perthshire were banned and fined for neglecting over 90 cows and an Edinburgh man was also disqualified from owning animals and fined for failing to seek veterinary attention for his puppy which was suffering from brain damage.