Battersea Dogs' Home is to spend pounds 4.5m on a four-storey block for stray dogs.

Creature comforts in each new kennel will include heated bed space and a balcony for exercise and fresh air. There will also be improved grooming and cleaning facilities and rooms for prospective owners to get to know dogs.

The design was chosen to maximise space in the 1.3-acre site squeezed between two railway lines. The dogs' home has been on the site, now rented from British Rail, since 1875.

The new block will replace shabby single-storey kennels . It will also house 800 dogs but provide greater comfort.

The charity, which has received almost pounds 6m from legacies over the past two years, did not have to launch a fund-raising appeal for the new block.

Of the 10,845 stray dogs passed to Battersea last year a record 21 per cent were found by their owners .

The charity promises to keep all dogs until a suitable owner is found. Greyhounds are a problem with unscrupulous owners dumping them after their three-year racing career. Most people believe they need excessive exercise, a fact denied by Lt-Col Duncan Green, director-general.

'Dogs end up here because people know we're not in the business of killing them. We take them all. Only incurably vicious or fatally ill dogs are put down.

Work on the new block is due to start in July and take 16 months to complete. During construction some dogs will be housed in Old Windsor.