A 15-year-old boy has admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a hamster after freezing it, tumble-drying it and then putting it in a washing machine.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty at Harrogate Youth Court.

Youth magistrates banned him from keeping animals for four years and passed a 12-month supervision order.

"What this boy did was horrendous," said RSPCA inspector Mike Pugh.

He explained that it took over half an hour for the hamster, named Poppy, to die.

After first being put in a freezer then heated in a revolving drum, it finally drowned in the washing machine.

Pugh said the animal "suffered severe pain and mental stress" and a post-mortem showed it had lesions on its feet and torn claws.

The vet concluded these were most likely caused by frostbite, trying to climb out of the freezer or hang on to the inside of the dryer drum. She died of severe respiratory or cardiovascular damage.

Poppy's owner called the RSPCA after finding the pet in the bin.

"The teenager was one of several who were guests at the owner's house," said Pugh. "The owner had been out for the evening and came home to find the evidence of what happened. There were droppings in the freezer and the tumble-dryer."

"Poppy was bought as a gift for the owner's daughter, who was obviously distraught.

"This was an act of senseless cruelty against a defenseless animal."