A PET owner who killed his cat with a hammer has been spared a ban on keeping animals after claiming it was a mercy killing.

Liam White killed the cat at the home he shared with his girlfriend and then put its body out with the rubbish in its litter tray in a “bag for life”.

The killing happened during a violent relationship with his partner, who he had assaulted twice in the preceding month, and who claimed he threw the cat at a wall.

White admitted causing unnecessary suffering to the animal on the basis that he had found it dying from serious injuries and had killed it with a hammer because he thought it was quicker and more humane than taking it to a vet.

He was in an on-off relationship in June and July last year in which he headbutted his partner while they were on holiday at Butlins at Minehead and threw an X Box controller at her at his home in Crediton.

White, aged 34, formerly of Tarka Way, Crediton and now of Barrows Gate, Newark, admitted battery, assault causing actual bodily harm and causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

He was jailed for 20 weeks, suspended for two years, ordered to attend a Building Better Relationships course and put on an alcohol monitoring tag for 120 days by Judge Anna Richardson at Exeter Crown Court.

She decided not to impose a ban on him keeping animals in the future but made a five-year restraining order forbidding any contact with his ex-partner.

She told him: “You found your cat injured and rather than taking it to a vet, and believing it would not survive, you responded by killing it with a hammer.

“I accept your basis of plea that you were trying to prevent further suffering. It was well-intentioned but incompetent care.”

Miss Victoria Bastock, prosecuting, said White had been in a volatile on-off relationship with his partner for about two years and they had got back together when they went to Butlins at Minehead on June 14 last year.

A noisy argument broke out in the early hours which resulted in him standing outside their chalet with a suitcase as she told him to leave.

A tourist in a neighbouring chalet used her telephone to record him headbutting her and knocking her back into the chalet. She went on to slap him.

The second assault happened a week later at his home in Crediton when he had been drinking and was playing an interactive X Box game with friends online.

An argument started when she heard him calling her a “silly slag” and saying he “needed to get shot of her” and he then threw the X Box controller, hitting her elbow and causing a small scar.

The cat was killed sometime between July 8 and 11 and its body was found in its litter tray in a “bag for life”.

A post mortem found it had a broken jaw and hip.

Miss Kelly Scrivener, defending, said White has no record of domestic violence, has accepted that the relationship is over, and is remorseful about his behaviour.

She said: “He knows he made the wrong decision about the cat when he did not take it to a vet. He wanted to put it out of its misery and did so in a brutal way inside the flat.”