Introducing dog licences could raise more than £100 million to improve the animals' welfare and reduce their use as status symbols or weapons, a report by the RSPCA suggested today.
The study by the animal protection charity said an annual fee of just £21.50 could raise £107.4 million in resources to improve dog welfare, if half the owners of the UK's 10 million dogs complied.
The report published today recommends the Government establish a licensing scheme to fund a dog health and welfare strategy, with resources going to tackle issues such as strays, injuries caused by dog bites and the prevention of disease.
Money could also be targeted at enforcing regulations such as dangerous dog control laws in local areas.
The RSPCA said the scheme could be set at £20 to £30 a year, just 3% to 4% of the annual average cost of owning a dog.
There should be discounts for people such as pensioners and for selected dogs, including guide dogs and neutered dogs, while animals would be microchipped, with details entered on a national database.
The measures would encourage responsible dog ownership and reduce strays, the RSPCA suggested.
The charity's David Bowles said: "A dog licence would raise money which could be targeted into improving enforcement of laws at a local level, improve the welfare of dogs and reverse the use of certain breeds of dog as a status symbol or weapon.
"The dog licence would achieve three important goals. It would raise money for dog welfare, increase the numbers of responsible dog owners by getting people to think before they get a dog and start to reverse the surplus of dogs on the market by providing incentives such as reduced fees for neutering dogs."
The RSPCA said two thirds of British dog owners were in favour of a licence scheme, with 70% of those supporting the move happy to pay more than £30 for owning a dog.