AN INCREASING number of young Staffordshire Bull Terriers are being bought and then abandoned in London.
Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home, which takes in more Staffords than any other breed, said that Londoners are buying them as puppies and getting rid of them within months. On average, two stray Staffords or Stafford crosses arrive at the London shelter each day, one of them less than two.
"They’re a very popular breed in the capital, but too many people are buying them as cuddly puppies without any thought for the future,” said the charity’s operations manager, Claire Porteous. "Then they dump them when training becomes too much hassle or the dog starts chewing their slippers.
"A new t-shirt is kept longer than these poor puppies.”
"While many are callously dumped on the streets, others are being sold on with little regard for their welfare.”
The charity’s research has shown that on one website alone there were 37 Stafford puppies for sale in London, with nearly a third of sellers pushing for a quick sale. In the first six months of this year, 621 stray Staffords or their crosses were brought into Battersea’s London shelter, 50 per cent of them under the age of two.
"We aim to take in any stray dog in need of its help, but with only limited space in our kennels we are increasingly concerned by the huge number of young Staffords being left to roam the city’s streets, or sold to irresponsible owners,” Ms Porteous said.
In 2011 the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was the eighth most popular dog registered with the Kennel Club, with 7,113 registrations. However, not all owners are responsible, and many breed to make money. Classified websites are fuelling the growing problem of unwanted puppies being sold cash-in-hand, with no questions asked, Ms Porteous said.
"Currently none of these websites is regulated, leaving owners free to sell dogs with scant interest in the animal’s welfare,” she said. "Many advertisements are misleading, with some buyers being told they are buying a Stafford puppy only to find it grows into a much larger dog or a dog banned under current dog laws.
"In a bid to stem the problem we are working with several other charities to try to improve the standards of these websites’ advertisements.”
One such victim is 12-week-old Bartley, who was advertised on a classified website and sold to a 15-year-old boy, even though the Animal Welfare Act makes it illegal to sell pets to anyone under 16.
"He didn’t have permission from his mother, and it wasn’t long before Bartley arrived with us,” Ms Porteous said.
Eight-month-old Star was found alone in Newham in April.
"She may have been deliberately abandoned as she was wearing a collar and trailing a lead behind her, but she had no identity tag or microchip,” Ms Porteous said. "Four months later she is still looking for a new home, as we can’t trace her former owner.
"Like all puppies she is very energetic and wants to meet every person and dog she passes, so her owner may have got fed up and dumped her.”
Battersea works with communities across the capital to talk about the responsibilities of dog ownership. By explaining the long-term commitments of pet ownership it hopes to help reduce the number of young and abandoned Staffies needing its help.
"In 2011 we reached more than 10,000 young people across 277 workshops at over 30 community events on the streets of London and spread vital messages on what is really needed to be a responsible dog owner,” Ms Porteous said.