Page last updated at 03:13 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 04:13 UK

'Big rise' in dog street fighting

Injured pit bull-type dog
RSPCA officers are treating increasing numbers of dogs for fight wounds

Dogs are having to be treated for stab wounds, burns and broken bones because they are increasingly being used in street fights, the RSPCA has said.

The animal welfare body had 284 reports of dog fighting in 2008 in England and Wales compared with 24 in 2004.

Two-thirds of those calls to the RSPCA involved youths using their dogs as weapons in street fights - 188 cases in 2008 compared with 132 in 2007.

The RSPCA is worried dogs are being used as "weapons of intimidation".

'Horrific torture'

The figures have been released ahead of a BBC Three documentary called My Weapon Is A Dog.

David Grant, of the RSPCA's Harmsworth animal hospital in north London said the capital was a hotspot for dog fighting in the streets.

Merseyside, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands have also been identified by the RSPCA as areas with a similar problem.

2004: 24
2005: 36
2006: 137
2007: 358 (132 street fighting)
2008: 284 (188 street fighting)
Source: RSPCA. Figures for England and Wales

Mr Grant said: "My staff are treating more dogs than ever for fight wounds and injuries sustained as a result of them being kept as status symbols by young people who think having a dog makes them look tough.

"I've had to treat dogs with stab wounds, broken bones and even cigarette burns to their heads. The torture some of these poor animals have suffered is simply horrific."

The charity has called for the government to review current dog legislation to place more responsibility on owners.

"Things are worse now than when the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed 18 years ago and I'm seeing more status dogs coming in for treatment than ever," said Mr Grant.

"These latest figures only prove what the RSPCA's inspectors and animal hospitals have suspected for a long time, that more and more people are using dogs as a means of intimidation."

Metropolitan Police figures show the force seized 719 dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2007/8, up from 38 in 2004/5.

My Weapon Is A Dog will be shown on BBC Three at 2100 BST on Thursday 21 May

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