We don’t often see them wandering the streets, but at any given time there are more than 100,000 stray dogs in the UK.
That is the stark reality that animal welfare campaigners are trying to bring to public attention this week, as they join forces with a group of celebrities and photographer Jo Sax to launch “Stray Dogs in Focus”.
The plight of pets without homes in Europe made headlines earlier in the year when a law was passed in Romania giving authorities permission to round up and slaughter stray dogs in staggering numbers. Over 25,000 stray dogs have already been killed in Bucharest alone, according to the charity Four Paws.
In the UK, there is still a substantial stray dog population that continues to go unnoticed. The Dog Rescue Federation’s figures suggest that they numbered around 116,000 over the course of 2013, more than half of which were classed as abandoned and either went to pounds or were destroyed.
“Many people in the UK are simply not aware of the sheer volume of stray and abandoned dogs that are pushing rescue shelters across the country to breaking point,” said Julie Sanders, the UK manager for Four Paws.
“Because we don’t often see stray dogs wandering the streets, as happens in some countries, it is easy enough to think that the problem doesn’t exist here. However, the statistics and these photos tell a different story.”
In pictures: The truth about stray dogs
In pictures: The truth about stray dogs
1/10 Bucharest stray
Romania has an estimated stray dog population approaching 600,000, with over 50,000 stray dogs thought to be in Bucharest alone. This figure equates to approximately one stray dog for every thirty one Romanian people. Dogs such as this stray girl, photographed wandering the streets of the capital, Bucharest
2/10 Overcrowded Bucharest dog pound
Following the enforcement of the killing law, thousands of dogs have been rounded up and placed in overcrowded dog pounds all across Romania. Four Paws does not view this as a humane or long-term solution, and is calling on the Romanian Government to reappraise their approach and stop the capture and killing of stray dogs. Unfortunately, until there is a move by the Romanian Government to cooperate with animal welfare organisations, to put in place a more rational and humane solution, Romania’s strays will continue to suffer in appalling dog pounds, like the one shown in the photo. In most cases, they are simply waiting to be killed
3/10 Status symbol
Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terrier crosses account for a large proportion of unclaimed strays, particular in inner-city areas. As a result of years of over breeding, pounds and rescues deal with a regular influx of unwanted Staffies that have reached epidemic proportions. Often exploited as breeding dogs, Staffies have predominantly become a status symbol for those involved in gang culture. Many of these dogs end up in unstable homes, resulting in a high percentage of Staffies being discarded before reaching twelve months of age, often ending up in dog pounds and rescues across the UK. Sadly, Staffies take significantly longer to rehome than other breeds, due to media hype and misconceptions about their nature. This Staffy girl was found straying on the streets of Croydon
Four Paws/Jo Sax
4/10 Factory dogs
This group of friends were photographed on the outskirts of Bucharest, where workers at a nearby factory were regularly feeding them. The workers would also lock the dogs up at night in a disused building, located in the area, so as to conceal their presence from the ASPA
5/10 Puppy trade
It has become common practice for many people to purchase a puppy without researching the breed, or fully understanding the responsibilities involved. This issue is exacerbated by the rise of online classified puppy sales, making the purchasing of a puppy far more conducive to impulse buying and instant gratification. Animals purchased in this manner can often be viewed as commodities, or whims; easily discarded when no longer wanted. This little girl is six months old, and was found wandering on the streets of Birmingham. She had no collar or microchip. Assumed abandoned when no owner came forward to reclaim her
6/10 Assistance dog
Specially selected rescue dogs can be trained to carry out a whole range of practical tasks, to assist disabled people in leading a more fulfilled and independent life. Karma is the first stray in Romania to be trained as an assistance dog. At the beginning of 2014 she was in a private shelter, desperately waiting to be adopted. Karma now provides her new owner Mircea, from Bucharest, with companionship as well as aiding him on a daily basis
7/10 Steven Mackintosh with Connie and Bear
Steven Mackintosh is a British Actor, best known for his roles in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Underworld Evolution and Rise of the Lycans. “We have two rescue dogs. There is Connie, who is a ten-year-old Greyhound, and Bear, who is an eighteen-month-old Whippet cross. Connie was found straying and taken to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Although we aren’t entirely sure of her history, we believe she may have been used for hunting rather than racing, as she is not tattooed. Bear came from Greyhound Rescue Kent, and showed signs of being mistreated in her past life. We were concerned as to whether Connie and Bear would bond as a pair. However, they took to each other immediately, and have got on like a house on fire ever since. Bear also showed herself to have a wonderful temperament. We have found it a misconception that these two breeds are high maintenance, for example, Connie loves just lazing about the house. I can’t imagine life without them”
8/10 Jilly Cooper Obe with Bluebell and Feather
Author, Jilly Cooper OBE began her career as a journalist then wrote several romantic novels and numerous works of non–fiction, including Mongrel Magic which contains many stories of rescued mongrels. She is most famous for writing the Rutshire Chronicles which kicks off with Riders. “The beautiful photograph is almost unbearably poignant because it is one of the last taken of Feather, my lovely black ex-racing Greyhound, who died of heart failure in September at the age of twelve. Eight years ago in the middle of winter, he was found wandering in County Offaly, a tottering skeleton still in his racing muzzle. He had been chucked out and heartlessly left to starve to death. Remarkably the Orchard Sanctuary rescued him and nursed him back to health, before he joined our family. For reasons beyond my comprehension, it appears that retired black Greyhounds have always found it difficult to find new homes. With this in mind, I made the decision to adopt three year old Bluebell from the same sanctuary to act as a companion for Feather. Unlike him, she is a clown and a complete applause junkie, but like he was, she is utterly adorable and neither dog ever bore any grudge against humans”
9/10 Heather Chasen with Bosie and Sweetie
Actress, Heather Chasen became a household name when appearing on soap operas such as Crossroads, Holby City, Family A.air, Casualty, and more recently EastEnders. “Since as far back as I can remember, I have always loved dogs. They are such true companions. My Chinese Crested Terrier, Bosie, was rescued from a broken and abusive home, whilst Sweetie came from a pack of Pomeranians advertised in the newspaper. Both are incredibly special to me. They are my family. If someone were looking for a dog, I would always recommend adopting one that has been rescued”
10/10 Jason Watkins and Daphne
Actor, Jason Watkins is a British stage, film and television actor, best-known for his roles in W1A, Being Human, Trollied, Psychoville, the Nativity films and, soon to be screened, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies. “Daphne is a ten-year-old German Shepherd, Poodle, Staffy cross. This is a recent revelation to us, having just received the results of a DNA test we carried out on her!! We adopted Daphne from a small rescue in the Midlands run by the wonderful Shirley Dillon. Shirley’s rescue acts as a sort of halfway house for rescue cats and dogs. She takes in very distressed stray or sick animals and tirelessly brings them back to good health. She then finds loving homes for them. At around one month old, Daphne was rescued by the RSPCA from a suspected abusive household, she and her emaciated mother were in a terrible condition, and Shirley nursed them both back to full health. Daphne joined our family at three months old. We walk Daphne on Hampstead Heath every day rain or shine (she has boundless energy and needs lots of walking). I love our walks together, not only does it make her deliriously happy, I find it a great way to clear my mind of the usual daily stresses and strains. She is without doubt the best dog I have ever had. She has a huge loving personality and is wonderful with our children. I love the uniqueness of having a rescue dog. She is one of a kind. I would never buy a pedigree dog from a breeder when there are so many wonderful, unique, rescue dogs out there looking for happy homes”
As well as the work of Sax, who accompanied dog wardens as they worked to round up strays across Bucharest and Britain, Four Paws has brought together dog-loving celebrities including the author Jilly Cooper OBE and actors Steven Mackintosh and Jason Watkins.
Together, their images show how difficult life is for a stray dog in London – or Bucharest – and what a difference adopting one of these animals can make to their lives.
“I hope these powerful images will give a genuine insight into the plight of stray and abandoned dogs, so that in the future they will be treated with the respect and humanity they deserve,” said Sanders.
An exhibition of the project will be held at London’s Menier Gallery between 27 October and 1 November. Admission is free.Reuse content