Several areas have reported a halving of the loose dog population while the Battersea Dogs' Home in London has seen a 40 per cent fall in the numbers of dogs admitted since 1985.
Terence Bate, chief veterinary officer of the RSPCA, believes owners are becoming more aware of their responsibilities at the same time as local authorities have been given the duty to pick up strays.
'The message is slowly getting through that people should take care of their dogs,' he said.
Pet charities also believe that impulse buying of animals has been reduced by tight family budgets. A large dog can cost pounds 1,000 a year.
All RSPCA animal hospitals, as well as large dogs homes' like Battersea and Bristol, electronically tag dogs passing through their care. A silicon microchip the size of a grain of rice is injected, normally between the shoulder blades, so that each dog can be identified. Owners recovering their lost dog, who claim back 15 per cent of strays picked up, are placed on a register as are those giving pets a new home.
Dogs are kept in RSPCA hospitals for an average of 10 days before being found new homes while Battersea has a policy of never putting down a healthy dog. The fall in stray numbers has meant the halving of those put down since 1985.
About 60,000 dogs have been registered, half as a result of the RSPCA scheme that began last year, with the number increasing by about 4,000 a week. The society supports a national registration scheme, despite its rejection by the Government.
Tony Glue, superintendent of the Millbrook Animal Centre in Chobham, Surrey, said the number of strays admitted had fallen by 75 per cent in less than a year as the Environmental Protection Act had begun to take effect.
The Act imposed a duty on local authorities to control dogs from 1 April last year.
Millbrook centre takes in about 10 dogs a month compared with 50 to 60 a year ago. 'People are keeping control of their dogs. At the moment nobody can put their fingers on why,' Mr Glue said.
A similar pattern has been reported in Bristol.
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