Large dogs are increasingly being used as weapons and status symbols by gangs in the West Midlands, RSPCA officials have said.
Officials believe the favoured dogs are large breeds like bull terriers
RSPCA Ch Insp Tim Scott said there were rising numbers of cases where dogs were used by muggers, instead of knives or guns, in areas like Birmingham.
He said gangs resorted to dogs because of tougher laws on other weapons.
Officials believe the favoured dogs are large breeds including bull terriers, Rottweilers and German shepherds.
The comments came after 45 pit bulls were seized in the West Midlands in 2006.
Last month, 10 men were found guilty of attending a dog fight in the Alum Rock area of Birmingham in what the RSPCA said was one of the largest dog fights it had ever uncovered. A further 16 admitted involvement in the contest.
Ch Insp Scott said that in many circumstances, gang members who bought large dogs used them for fighting.
"People are buying them as status symbols," he said.
"It's more difficult for them to carry arms like firearms and knives.
"If they are stopped with these they are in trouble, but if they are stopped with a dog they can get around it.
"They are used as a status symbol - to show they're tough because they've got a big dog. But they are also being used in street crime to intimidate people."