Left to die: Number of dogs being destroyed in Sheffield pound doubles in a year

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THE number of dogs being put down at Sheffield Council’s pound has more than doubled in just a year, exclusive figures obtained by The Star reveal.

The council put to sleep 137 dogs in 2010/11 - compared to only 66 in 2009/10.

The RSPCA has described the number of unwanted dogs in need of homes as ‘a ticking time bomb waiting to go off’ - and blamed the rise firmly on the recession.

“With people having to rein in their expenses, pets are the ones losing out. More animals are increasingly being abandoned,” spokeswoman Leanne Plumtree told The Star.

She added: “There is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

The figures, obtained by The Star under the Freedom of Information Act, show the number of dogs being put down has been rising steadily ever since 2004/05.

They come after The Star launched its ‘Give A Dog A Home’ campaign, urging people to adopt stray or unwanted dogs from the RSPCA Sheffield Animal Centre and other dog sanctuaries.

The number of dogs picked up by the council’s dog wardens across the six years makes equally grim reading.

Some 1,306 dogs were rounded up in 2010/11 - up from only 514 in 2004/05.

A mandatory seven-day kennelling period after a dog is admitted to the pound means owners can reclaim their missing pet.

But after seven days the dog is officially in the care of the local authority - and on average only 31 per cent of dogs were reclaimed by their owner during the initial seven day period.

That means the council is left with hundreds of dogs to rehome every year.

And, while there has been an increase in the number of dogs being rescued and adopted, the rise is not enough to keep up with the increase in the numbers of dogs admitted.

After the seven-day kennelling period, staff must consider whether to keep the dogs and try to rehome them or whether it would be best to put them down.

There are three criteria for putting dogs down - the age of the animal and signs of illness or suffering; whether the dog is dangerous or aggressive and therefore unsafe to rehome; and whether the dog is an illegal breed and therefore unable by law to be rehomed.

RSPCA spokeswoman Leanne Plumtree said: “We’re not at all surprised by the figures provided by Sheffield Council - and we empathise with their situation entirely.

“Our own workload is increasing and our funds are reducing.

“We don’t believe there is any easy solution without significant financial investment, and not only is this not going to happen but further cuts are going to be necessary in the coming months.

“It’s extremely worrying - and at the moment there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

The council blamed the rise in figures on a change in regulations three years ago. Prior to 2008 people could take stray dogs to the police, the council or back to their owners if they knew who they were.

But in 2008 the option to take dogs to the police was removed, which resulted in an increase in admissions to the council.

Coun Leigh Bramall, the council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “We have lots of unwanted and abandoned dogs at our kennels who are absolutely adorable and can’t wait for a new home. “We would also like to say a massive thank you to the dog rescue centres throughout South Yorkshire who work with us and take on the dogs we are unable to keep because of our limited capacity.

“They deserve recognition for their great work.”

To rehome a dog from the council’s pound call 07817 497 995 to arrange a viewing.

Figures reveal:

n 137 were destroyed by the council in 2010/11

n 66 were destroyed in 2009/10

n 36 were destroyed in 2008/09

n 30 were destroyed in 2007/08

n 34 were destroyed in 2006/07

n 16 were destroyed in 2005/06

n 17 dogs were destroyed in 2004/05