The man who tore the head off a kitten in front of his family has been sentenced to two years and four months in prison.

David Hamuera Snook has also been banned from owning or exercising animals for five years.

Man fed kittens to pitbull and filmed it, court told

The Pukekohe District Court heard how Snook went to his former partner's house drunk, in November, where an argument happened.

Snook then sat at the dining table, took the family kitten in his arms, and while laughing, twisted its head off.

His former partner and her children watched Snook kill the kitten before its headless body ran across the floor, according to the police summary of facts.

Snook later told police that the kitten had been run over, however, in her sentencing Judge Sharon McAuslan said that was a lie.

She described the killing of the kitten as "callous, brutal and cruel".

"The kitten had one life and you took it", Judge McAuslan said.

"Animals, particularly young animals, are vulnerable and entirely dependent on people for their wellbeing."

Snook's lawyer, James Parlane, said his client had problems with alcohol but had shown he was intelligent by completing a Bachelor of Arts.

He acknowledged Snook's previous violent convictions and said he had "slipped through the gaps."

"He says he sees this as some sort of turning point for him," Mr Parlane told the court.

Mr Parlane said the kitten did not suffer. "The animal would have known little or nothing," he said.

He likened the killing to someone running over a cat in a car but Judge McAuslan said that was not the case.

"That is an accident - this is a deliberate event," she said.

Police prosecutor Geoffrey Bardsley said the killing was a breach of trust.

"The offending is at the higher end of the scale," Mr Bardsley said.

He said it was made worse by the fact that the kitten was killed in front of the family.

Snook's sentencing included the charges relating to the killing of the kitten as well as historic domestic violence charges after breaking a supervision order.

Watching court proceedings today was animal rights lobby group Paw Justice managing director Shaughan Campbell.

Outside court Mr Campbell said the judge took the killing of the kitten seriously but Snook should have been locked up for five years.

"At the end of the day he's a menace to society," Mr Campbell said.

He said animal abuse and domestic violence goes hand-in-hand and people needed to be aware of that.

Mr Parlane also spoke to outside court.

"It was a situation where the cat basically.... was simply killed in a particularly horrible way," Mr Parlane said.

He said Snook was trying to "assert himself".

"The worst part of this is the memory people will have of it," Mr Parlane said.

He said Snook's offending was an example of the problems some people had with alcohol.

"If you took out alcohol you would fix half the world's problems."