Haunting images lay bare Britain’s ‘invisible’ stray dog problem

UK has more than 100,000 stray dogs – and celebrities who have homed them in the past come together to show what a difference it makes

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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.”

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.