Celebrity fad blamed for surge in strays

Animal welfare officials in East Anglia have condemned irresponsible dog owners following a more than 40pc increase in the number of stray cases in the region.

Animal welfare officials in East Anglia have condemned irresponsible dog owners following a more than 40pc increase in the number of stray cases in the region.

The Dogs Trust blamed the current trend of people buying dogs as status symbols and fashion accessories after a new survey revealed that 5,796 canines were abandoned in the East of England last year - 115 of which were put down.

The regional figure, which is 43pc higher than the statistics for 2006, comes as the number of stray dog collections in the UK rose from 101,586 to 105,068 over the last year - an increase of 3pc.

And while the Dogs Trust has reported a dramatic reduction in the number of strays over the last 10 years as well as an increase in rehoming figures, officials from the animal welfare charity spoke of their disappointment after East Anglia experienced the highest rise of abandoned cases in the UK.

Clarissa Baldwin, Dogs Trust chief executive, said the figures for the region were “very disheartening” and were partly blamed on the growing popularity of 'labradoodles' and handbag sized toy dogs, made famous by celebrities like Paris Hilton.

“Ten years ago, we vowed to campaign for better welfare for our lovable companions and the hard work put in by welfare organisations, like Dogs Trust and others, seems to be making good headway on a national level, but we need the public to meet us at a regional level.

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“Stray figures show that we have reached a plateau and we can but conclude that there has been a cultural change in the last few years. There have been a tremendous number of breeds such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Staffie crossbreeds through the doors of our rehoming centres, and this coupled with the current fashion for designer dogs, suggests we are living in a throwaway society.

“We are asking the public to take action and to consider fully the responsibility of owning a dog. They are not a fad or a fashion statement to be disposed of when the novelty wears off,” she said,

Barbara Emons, supporter relations officer at Snetterton, said the region's only Dogs Trust rehoming centre was always full to capacity - 50pc of which were stray cases.

“We are incredibly disappointed and surprised by the numbers of stray dogs that have shown up on this survey. Some people are not putting any thought into how much work and responsibility goes into caring for a new dog and if they cannot get it into a rehoming centre, sadly they will just abandon it.”

Officials hope that the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 earlier this year, which places an onus of responsibility and duty of care upon the owner, and new codes of practice, which are likely to be introduced in 2008, will improve general animal welfare but also reduce stray dog figures in the future. They are also urging dog owners to neuter their pets and also microchip them.

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