The Nova Scotia SPCA was praising a groundbreaking court decision Monday, calling it an important case for animal welfare law.

They say it's the first conviction for someone for causing pain, suffering and undue anxiety to an animal.

A disturbing video of the incident was a critical piece of evidence the SPCA says led to the ground-breaking court decision.

"This case is monumental because in this case, the owner was charged with causing psychological suffering and anxiety of the dog," said Jo-Anne Landsburg of the Nova Scotia SPCA. "This is really the first time in Nova Scotia that we've seen that."

The SPCA says they were contacted last fall by a concerned citizen who had surveillance video of a man abusing a dog.

As a result, 31-year-old Adam DeCoste of Halifax was charged under the Animal Protection Act and the dog, a husky named Sophie, was seized.

An expert from British Columbia was called in and analyzed the video frame by frame, to help explain how the dog suffered.

"They were able to provide us with scientific evidence, based on the video, looking at the animal's behaviour during the case, the cowering, the lifting the legs, that dog actually was in fear and suffered anxiety as a result," Landsburg said. "So, if the animal was placed back into the home of the person that abused the animal, it would suffer ongoing psychological stress."

Veterinarian Dr. Paul Robb says animals like dogs and cats can feel stress and anxiety.

"We commonly see dogs that have been through a traumatic experience showing signs of increased agitation, phobias that they never had before," Robb said. "We even see in severe cases where they have self-mutilation."

Although he deals with animals that have anxiety disorders, Robb says it's hard to measure psychological abuse in animals.

"We can't measure things like nightmares or intrusive memory or anxiety that's below the surface, but we certainly can see physical signs of anxiety," Robb said. "So, we'll see loss of house training, inappropriate bowel movements or urination in the house, we'll see vocalization and again the other evidence of agitation, so, there's not relating to their humans the way they used to."

The SPCA says DeCoste pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a three-year prohibition on owning animals. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

The SPCA is hopeful the court decision could set a precedent for cases moving forward.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Natasha Pace.