A pre-school owner has been jailed after she was found guilty of neglecting her dog.

Marie Elizabeth Staniforth, who owns Acorns Pre-School in Cleator Moor, appeared before magistrates in a two-day trial, accused of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal between January and February this year.

Staniforth, 32, denied the charge, but was found guilty.

West Cumbria magistrates gave her an 126-day sentence, banned her for life from keeping an animal and ordered her to pay a £281.70 donation to the RSPCA and an £80 surcharge.

Staniforth can appeal the ban after 10 years.

Joan Singleton, owner of Fairview Boarding Kennels, told the trial she received a call on February 16 from someone claiming to have found a stray lurcher-type dog on an industrial estate in Cleator Moor.

The court heard the woman had given Staniforth’s mobile phone number and her address in Highfield Road, where the dog was collected from.

Martyn Fletcher, an RSPCA inspector with 17 years’ experience, told the court he had never seen a dog so thin survive.

He said: “It was clearly in a very emaciated condition. It was standing up but was very wobbly and weak on its feet.”

The dog was treated by Millcroft Veterinary Group before being rehomed.

Mr Fletcher told the court he visited the house where the dog was collected to try to speak to the finder but received no reply but spotted a dog cage containing what he believed to be two or three-day-old faeces outside.

The court heard the RSPCA launched an appeal to trace the dog’s owner and received about 30 replies, about 25 of which identified Staniforth as the owner or the address, where the defendant had lived, as its home.

Staniforth, now of Gatesyde Place, Eskdale Green, Holmrook, was cautioned and interviewed by Mr Fletcher in March and said the dog, called Charlie, had gone missing during a walk on January 24 and she was not responsible for its condition.

But Hayley Dawkins, a community nurse, told the court she had called at the house on February 3 and noticed a dog matching Charlie’s description in the porch.

Staniforth said she had returned to the route she normally walked the dog to look for him, but without success.

After the hearing, Mr Fletcher said: "There are never winners in situations like this, we are here because an animal has suffered cruelty.

"Families have lives disrupted but animals come with responsibility and if you don't take that responsibility, there are consequences.

"It sends a strong message.

"Joan Singleton, who initially got the dog in February, has in my mind undoubtedly saved its life.

"There's always help for people if they get into difficulty caring for animals and the RSPCA and other organisations are there to help them.

"The dog is doing really well now and is in a nice place with other dogs."