Number of stray dogs roaming West Country soars by 70 per cent
The number of stray dogs roaming the Westcountry has soared by 70% over the past four years, with charities blaming the continuing economic downturn.
New figures reveal the total of stray or abandoned dogs increased from 3,048 in 2008 to 5,181 this year.
While some pets are reunited with owners, the worrying shift equates to 14 dogs a day being picked up by dog wardens working for local councils.
The figures feature in the Dog Trust's annual Stray Dog Survey. Claire Joselin, supporter relations officer at the Ilfracombe branch of the charity in Devon, said economic hardship affecting pet owners was a significant factor in rising numbers.
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She said: "This year's survey represents depressing news for the Westcountry's dogs with the total number of strays remaining at high levels. Many of these dogs will end up with rescue centres such as Dogs Trust.
"We work closely with local authorities and run extensive education, neutering and microchipping campaigns to help them to tackle the issue of stray dogs."
Andrew Millie, environment protection and emergency planning manager at North Devon Council, said the authority's data showed a "fluctuating picture" with 175 dogs collected in 2008/09, 109 over the 2009-10 period, 134 in 2010-11 and 84 for 2011-12.
He said: "The majority of owners are responsible but there are a minority who cause the majority of problems. It's not even a social issue.
"There are owners who some might class as working class who are hugely responsible and others who may be deemed upper class who are far from it."
Nationally the stray dog figure stands at 118,932, indicating a surge of 23% since 2008, when it stood at 96,892.
Louise Clarke, centre manager at National Animal Welfare Trust in Hayle, West Cornwall, said: "While there have always been people who will dump pets there's definitely been a rise in our numbers – we could fill our dog pen that takes 24 four times over.
A spokesman for Cornwall Council said from April last year to March 31 this year wardens collected 1,574 dogs from the streets and figures were "pretty high." She said: "Cornwall has one of the highest rates of lost dogs. We are trying to work out why."