Experienced police have been rocked by the mutilation and killing of a puppy, being dubbed Australia’s worst act of animal cruelty.

Jonathon Connor Blake, 20, and Trent William Cunniffe, 24, are alleged to have stolen the seven-month fox terrier from its home in the mining town of Moranbah, west of Mackay, around 4am (AEST) on Monday.

Both appeared in Mackay Magistrates Court this morning on charges of unlawful killing and stealing and were remanded in custody until Wednesday.

It’s alleged the pair, from the nearby town of Dysart, mutilated and tortured the dog over a protracted period before killing it.

Police say the men filmed the incident on a mobile phone.

They were arrested by Moranbah Police after one of them was intercepted for allegedly drink driving on Monday.

“During the course of the interception and investigation into that, the officer looked at one of the offenders’ phones and noticed a video recording on his phone,” Mackay-based Inspector Mick Keyes said.

Inspector Keyes said the film allegedly depicted the dog being tortured in “very graphic detail”.

The callousness of the alleged actions had shocked police, he said.

“It’s a pretty heavy scenario actually, it’s rocked a few of our long term investigators as to what they did,” he said.

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty condemned the killing as “horrific”.

“If the allegations are true this could well be the worst case of animal cruelty ever brought before the courts in Australia,” Beatty said.

The maximum penalty in Queensland for unlawfully killing an animal is a $75,000 fine or two years’ imprisonment.

However, Beatty said the maximum penalty imposed had been four months’ jail.

He said RSPCA Qld had investigated more than 12,000 cases of animal cruelty and neglect in the past 12 months including the slaughter of koalas and their joeys by a gang of men at Kallangur and the satanic ritual killing of a goat in Brisbane’s west.