Big leap in stray dogs as recession bites

A dog looks through the door of its kennel at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London.
The number of stray and abandoned dogs in the United Kingdom jumped by 11 percent in the past year — the biggest surge in a decade — possibly because of the financial crisis, a British dog charity said Wednesday.

Dogs Trust said local authorities picked up 107,228 stray and abandoned dogs from British streets in the past year. It called on the government to make microchipping compulsory for all dogs to help reunite owners with pets, whether lost or abandoned. “The latest stray dog survey is very disappointing,” said Clarissa Baldwin, chief executive of Dogs Trust. “Even more tragically is the number of dogs that are being put down, which has gone up from 7,000 to just below 10,000, a very worrying trend.” Has recession hit your pet Send us your thoughts The 11 percent rise is the highest yearly increase since recordkeeping began in 1997, Dogs Trust said. The rise may be due to the financial crisis, Dogs Trust said. Some households tighten their belts by giving up the dog. Another possible reason for the jump: England and Wales last year changed the law to make local councils, not police, responsible for taking in stray dogs, Dogs Trust said. Cash-strapped councils might lack resources to pick up or temporarily shelter dogs. “You’ve got a lot of latchkey dogs that are just left to wander the streets,” said Natalie Dexter, who works at the education center at Dogs Trust. “Their homes aren’t secure, gardens aren’t secure, and so they’re just left to wander around.” Local authorities handle an average of 12 dogs each hour, Dogs Trust said. Only five are reunited with their owners — a number that could increase if more dogs were microchipped, Dogs Trust said. A microchip is an electronic device, coated in plastic, that is the size of a grain of rice. It is implanted just under a dog’s skin, beneath its shoulder blades, which causes no harm to the animal and cannot be felt, veterinarians and campaigners say. The microchip carries the owner’s information, which can be updated. The information can be read by a scanner that works through a radio frequency.