The shocking truth concerning the vast numbers of unwanted dogs in Britain today.

As a national voluntary animal protection group based in the South West of England, South West Animal Protection (SWAP) and countless numbers of rescue organizations, charities and independent rescue workers across the UK, face this grim reality every day.

The members of the SWAP team regularly compile and distribute emergency email appeals for dogs on death row across the UK. They give their own account of the dire situation:

The computer goes on, the emails download and already there are four appeals for dogs on death row, fourteen dogs in total, thirteen of which are Staffordshire Bull Terriers commonly referred to as ‘Staffies’. These desperate dogs are only days away from death, often perfectly healthy, friendly, loving little beings who for one reason or another have ended up in a dog pound, abandoned or discarded by their owners. Now in their last few living hours all they can do is await their fate, will they be saved, or will their anxious barks be silenced, their wagging tails be stilled by the harrowing lethal injection?

staffordshire bull photo

With not a moment to lose, we immediately set to work, piecing together a special email appeal for the first group of dogs. The details of each individual have been listed, now we insert the photos, this is always the most emotionally challenging task, the desperate faces haunt you, their begging, mournful eyes staring back at you from the computer screen almost piercing your heart, each face crying out “please don’t let me die!”

Eleven of the fourteen dogs are less than three and a half years old, one of these being a six to nine month old pup.

The appeal will go out across the network to our supporters in the UK, a number of these being rescue centres or independent rescue workers. All we can do now is anxiously await the response.

The lives of these fourteen dogs are now depending on the efforts of the animal lovers across the country receiving our appeals. There are so many caring hard-working individuals who endeavour to save dogs like these every day, many of these ‘unsung heroes’ have full-time jobs and dedicate the few spare hours they have voluntarily, rescuing and transporting unwanted dogs from pounds to a safe haven, some will even place dogs in private kennels and pay the boarding fees out of their own pockets if this means keeping the dogs alive, often putting themselves in debt.

Dedicated rescue charities and organizations are working tirelessly on a daily basis to prevent unwanted dogs from being killed. ‘Doris Banham Dog Rescue’ (Registered Charity: 1103372, Website: ) is one such amazing charity and was featured in the recent Panorama programme.

We have put out many appeals over the past three years on behalf of Doris Banham for some of the many thousands of dogs they have painstakingly saved from death row. The team at Doris Banham do incredible work for dogs in dog pounds that face imminent death.

Paul N Davis, Trustee for Doris Banham describes the work that they do, “In the last 4 years Doris Banham Dog Rescue have saved over 10,000 dogs from being put to sleep in dog council pounds in the UK. These dogs were rehomed direct by their Charity or placed by them into other approved non-destruct rescues who found the dogs the loving homes they deserved. Every dog is awarded full rescue back up by the Charity to give them the best ever chance in life. This includes vaccinations, veterinary treatment, training, neutering, microchipping, homechecks and a safe place to come back to should circumstances change in their new home. 10,000 dogs that would have otherwise died unloved in the past 4 years have now been given a new start in life”.

Most rescue shelters depend heavily on volunteers, fundraising and donations to enable them to carry out their vital life-saving work and many are struggling to survive in today’s current financial climate, others have already sadly perished. For those rescues that have managed to stay afloat, the workload is excruciating, kennels are constantly full, no sooner than one becomes vacant another unwanted dog will arrive and fill the space.

The simple, heart-rending truth is there just aren’t enough rescue spaces across the UK to accommodate the countless numbers of unwanted dogs in need and so thousands of healthy and often young dogs are put to sleep every year. The situation is now dire and needs to be addressed.

Over breeding, irresponsible dog ownership and extortionate vets fees are all to blame.

Over breeding is by far the most serious problem. We despair at the amount of people who insist on buying dogs from breeders, puppy farms the internet etc. while thousands of unwanted dogs are waiting desperately in rescue kennels for loving homes and thousands more are being euthanized. The slogan “Don’t Breed or Buy While Homeless Dogs Die” is commonly used by animal shelters around the world and it speaks volumes. We urge anyone thinking of taking on a dog to please adopt one from a reputable rescue instead of buying a dog from a breeder, puppy farm etc. If every prospective dog owner was to do this, then the numbers of unwanted dogs in the UK would fall dramatically.

Spaying and neutering is also an essential means to reducing the numbers of unwanted dogs. All dog owners should have their pet spayed or neutered, this will prevent any accidental litters. Most reputable rescue organizations will spay or neuter before rehoming a dog, however, some smaller charities don’t always have the funds to do this but they will always recommend to the new owner that this is done.

Dog breeders, be they commercial or independent will of course not consider spaying or neutering as they will continue to breed dogs as a means to make a fast buck, so it is up to the members of the public to refrain from supporting these breeders and adopt a dog from a rescue centre instead.

Puppy farms and dog breeders across the UK are churning out dogs at an alarming rate. Many of these seedy and often ‘elusive’ establishments keep their dogs in appalling conditions and it is not uncommon for puppies from these places to be found in a poor state of health.

Breeding bitches are forced to produce litter after litter until they become exhausted and even disfigured in some cases. We have put out appeals for some female dogs that have been used so often for breeding that their delicate teats have become inflamed and enlarged to the point where they are dragging along the ground. It is heart breaking to witness such abuse.

It is now the responsibility of the government to take serious measures to stop all the over breeding in this country, as this is by far the biggest contributing factor to the escalating problem of so many unwanted dogs. The general public can also help by lobbying the government, writing to David Cameron and their own local MP’s urging them to take the necessary measures to stop the appalling and unforgivable carnage of thousands of dogs in the UK.

We feel that vets are also partly to blame for people abandoning their dogs. It is inconceivable to think that some people might be willing to give up their dog before giving up their X-box or DVD player, but sadly this is the attitude of some people. Exorbitant vets fees are not helping the situation. If a dog becomes sick then some less committed dog owners are tempted into giving up their pet when faced with the vet’s bill. The current recession has placed the security of the household pet on even shakier ground. How many sick animals are being neglected and left to suffer because
some penny-pinching individuals are unwilling to pay extortionate prices for treatment? It is the responsibility of the vets to reduce their fees which will encourage owners to keep and look after their animals properly.

Many dogs end up in rescues, pounds etc due to dog owner’s lack of foresight and lack of commitment. If people were to think more seriously before taking on a dog then this occurrence could be avoided.

Owning a dog is a huge responsibility and although the rewards of adopting a furry friend are immeasurable, there are several important points to consider before adopting a dog.

Financially, can you afford to pay for food, vets fees etc? Work and social commitments also need to be taken into consideration, a dog is a pack animal and so should not be left on its own for long periods of time as this would cause distress and anxiety.

Are you planning to move or change jobs in the near future? If so, then the dog’s needs would have to be considered and your lifestyle adapted to fit in with these needs.

Too often we hear of cases where couples have split up or moved house and as a result of these changes have decided to get rid of their dog, this is immoral and unacceptable, would these people give up their children under the same circumstances? It is extremely unlikely, so why is it deemed acceptable to give up their dog? Once a dog becomes a member of your family, it should remain so for life. To quote the words of ‘Dogs Trust’, the largest dog welfare charity in the UK “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”.

Sadly the ‘Staffie’ is far too often becoming a common resident in dog pounds and rescue centres.

This friendly, loyal breed has become the victim of many macho would-be ‘hard men’ of today’s society who are often using these dogs as a status symbol, a tool to boost their inflated, ambitious egos, the innocent Staffie, totally oblivious to its owner’s motives. These low-life thugs will disown their dog at the drop of a hat as soon as it is deemed as an inconvenience. Sadly, these unwholesome individuals have created a bad image for the Staffies in the eyes of the general public, this is a tragedy as these special dogs make wonderful, loyal, family pets as any Staffie rescue will tell you.

The Greyhound is another greatly exploited breed. Tens of thousands of these placid gentle-natured dogs are bred every year to supply the commercial racing industry. Thousands of these dogs are killed at the end of their
racing career, usually at the tender age of three or four years and countless more are either abandoned on the streets and picked up as strays or end up in rescues, all adding to the extremely overwhelming unwanted dog population.

There is no end to the amount of suffering that dogs in our society are being forced to endure. These living, breathing, loyal sentient beings have been ultimately betrayed by us. Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated”. It would seem Britain is not so ‘Great’ after all, we have become a nation of convenience and throwaway ‘junkies’, self orientated and motivated by greed, this together with a lack of compassion has led to devastating consequences for our so-called ‘best friend’. Britain has become a nation of dog killers!

Photo by Bev Goodwin

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1 comment
  1. Another huge factor at present is the ever-increasing number of rental properties (both privately owned and housing association) which exclude pets as a condition their tenancy agreements. This is creating a vast number of people who are ‘having’ to re-home/abandon their pets as they downsize due to similarly ever-increasing costs of living and rent rates. Ask any animal shelter, take a quick look on Gumtree or Preloved, or check out rental properties locally and you’ll see what I mean – there is a growing trend towards no-pet policies in rented accommodation, and it is having a terrible impact on the lives of many dogs here in the UK…

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