'We won't rest until man who set our pet dog alight is jailed' - Owners of Cody the dog plea for maximum sentence for deliberate attack
*Warning - distressing images below
"Don't let Cody die in vain" was the agonised plea from the owners of the dog who was set alight and had to be put down.
Last night, Cody's former owners called for the maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment to be enforced as it became clear that one of the two men who admitted the deliberate attack would face time in jail.
Natalie and Martin Agnew said that their family would not have closure over the traumatic attack until the thug who owned up to dousing their dog with flammable liquid and setting her on fire was imprisoned.
Mrs Agnew (38) added: "We would hope the court enforces the full maximum sentence of two years and more.
"We will try and have this extended if possible.
"We hope that this makes a statement to the people out there who would abuse animals – it's not acceptable and you will be punished.
"We want to speak on behalf of all the other abused animals out there – not just for Cody – so that she didn't die in vain."
Co Down men Andrew Richard Stewart and Jamie Downey both pleaded guilty to charges yesterday – Stewart to causing unnecessary suffering to the dog and Downey to perverting the course of justice.
Stewart (23) from Wellington Parks, Moira, was told at Belfast Crown Court that he would be "facing an inevitable prison sentence" after he admitted dousing Cody, a three-year-old border collie, in combustible liquid and setting her on fire.
His co-accused, Downey (23), from Chestnut Hall Avenue in Moira, had earlier denied involvement before subsequently changing his plea.
Cody was attacked on the morning of August 26, 2012.
The treasured pet managed to walk back to her home in Maghaberry village afterwards – despite suffering from agonising burns that would eventually be the cause of her death.
She was put to sleep two weeks after the attack.
Yesterday, after two years of consistently denying his involvement, Stewart finally accepted responsibility for the act that resulted in the death of the family pet.
While the court accepted that it was Stewart alone who poured the liquid on the dog and set her alight, Downey admitted to lying and then making up a story to cover the pair's tracks and avoid prosecution.
Judge McFarland, who has asked for a victim impact report to be carried out, said: "I would like to know the impact this has had, particularly on the family."
Stewart and Downey were both released on bail and ordered to come back before the court for sentencing on October 7.
It is understood that Stewart's prison sentence will be the first given for an attack on animals since the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 came into effect in 2012.
Last night, news of the intended sentencing was welcomed by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA).
Spokesman David Wilson said: "The USPCA are delighted that a custodial sentence will be handed down in this case of this premeditated callous act of cruelty to an animal.
"We are hoping that the accused will receive a significant sentence of the maximum two years that can be handed down and that it acts as a deterrent to anyone else who would deliberately seek to hurt an animal."
Mrs Agnew also revealed that her two sons, Justin (12) and Jake (9), had been left badly traumatised by the attack on Cody.
She added: "We won't really have closure until we have get the sentence in six weeks' time and we see Andrew Stewart going to prison. Then I will get closure.
"It all may hit me then and I will need to deal with it."
She said that the family hoped to bury Cody's ashes under a tree on their land and would sow forget-me-not seeds over the top of his grave.