THIS little dog met a barbaric death having had weights clamped to its paws before being thrown in a canal.

Bruiser, a three-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was described by his previous owners as a very gentle-natured dog.

He had been friendly with other dogs and children but had to be re-homed last summer simply because his former owners had separated and could no longer look after him.

He had been identity-chipped but his latest owners had not bothered to update the records. Council workmen recovered his body from the canal at Royston last Wednesday morning after reports from passers-by that something was floating on the surface.

Angler and dog owner Claire Mayes said she was shocked to see the weights attached to the dog when the council came and removed it from the water.

Claire, 34, added: "What evil b*****d puts weights on a dog and drowns it?"

RSPCA spokesman Lynsey Harris described the killing as ‘horrendous’ and ‘barbaric’ and appealed for help in tracking down whoever was responsible.

She added: "There’s no excuse for doing this. We know it’s difficult times and people are struggling financially and it means some people can’t afford dogs but there are so many dog charities out there.

"We deal with a lot of awful things on a daily basis but when it's a premeditated attack, when somebody has prepared these weights in that way, it’s barbaric.

"The original owner of the dog was heartbroken to find out what had happened to him.

"I have no idea why someone would want to do this to a defenceless animal and it's very disturbing and quite an horrendous way for an animal to die."

Jean Kilkenny, of Royston Animal Welfare, described Bruiser's death as ‘murder’.

She added: “I think it's absolutely dreadful what has happened. The dog must have gone through absolute agony before it drowned."

The Barnsley Chronicle has offered a £500 cash reward to help bring those responsible to justice.

"How anyone could treat a dog this way is beyond belief," said the Chronicle's editor, Andrew Harrod.

"It must have been a horrible way to die. It's not known whether this was carried out by the owners who had got fed up of Bruiser or whether he had got lost or been stolen and it was some sort of sick prank.

"Either way, Bruiser didn’t deserve this horrible fate. Surely there was no need for the owners to resort to this? For the last year, Bruiser had obviously been someone’s pet - someone must recognise him from the picture.

"If you think you know who was to blame for his death then please contact the RSPCA."