Area Dogged by Stray 'Staffies'

Christmas could bring more strays to local streets

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Almost half the stray dogs taken in by local animal shelters are Staffordshire Bull Terriers, according to the latest figures obtained under a Freedom of Information Act. And Hounslow Council’s Animal Control Officer Tony Bull, has appealed to people to think twice about giving dogs as Christmas presents.

"Dogs should never be presents. Buying a dog must be properly thought through and people should know exactly what they’re taking on" he advised.

Recent figures show that of the 20,000 stray dogs taken in by councils across the UK during 2011, the majority were Staffordshire Bull Terriers. And the borough of Hounslow follows the national trend .Of the 143 dogs abandoned last year, 40% were of the " staffie" breed and 90% had no identification.

When they are reported, the strays are taken to the council depot near Bridge Road where seven dogs are allowed at a time.  Although approximately 50% of pets are successfully reunited with their owners according to the Hounslow team, many remain unclaimed.

Unfortunately, according to Louise Le Thien of the RSPCA branch in Hounslow, there is simply "no room" left for strays, which is "certainly the case in Hounslow"according to Mr Bull . The best-known shelter, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has an open intake policy; they never turn an animal away,and last year spent over £11 million caring for abandoned strays. One-third of dogs taken in had to be destroyed, a total of 2,815. Most of them were entirely healthy, but due to their temperament were too difficult to re-home.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not on the Government’s banned list, a fact which Jim Paice, the agriculture minister defends,having grown up alongside terriers. However,they remain controversial, following some highly publicised attacks on children. Tony Bull agrees with the Minister, saying that "pure-bred Staffies brought up well are one of the gentlest dogs". 

The Conservative MP for Battersea, Jane Ellison, and the Minister for Agriculture, have now backed a campaign to "reclaim the breed’s good name". Several animal experts say the problem is that many are trained to become aggressive, become uncontrollable and then their owners abandon them.This has resulted in the number of ‘Staffies’ taken in by Battersea shelter rising by 85% since 1996.   

Reforms to the Dangerous Dogs Act have now reached "a very advanced stage" according to the Minister.  The details are expected to be revealed in the New Year, and could include fines for failing to remove dog faeces and for not keeping a dog on a lead.  A spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said; "We are working hard to reduce the problems of irresponsible dog ownership which will make our homes, streets and public spaces safer." 

Emma Baigey

December 23, 2011