Battersea takes in dozens of abandoned pedigrees

Severin Carrell
Wednesday 05 January 2000 01:00

It is a new twist to the traditional hunt for new year bargains. Forget cheap china or low-cost linen in the high street sales. How about a pedigree puppy at a knock-down price.

It is a new twist to the traditional hunt for new year bargains. Forget cheap china or low-cost linen in the high street sales. How about a pedigree puppy at a knock-down price.

Take Jasper, a West Highland terrier puppy bought at a pet shop just before Christmas for the handsome price of £400. Yours for only £70 at Battersea Dogs Home, another victim of the seasonal rush where hundreds of dogs are bought without a thought.

This Christmas has been among Battersea's busiest in recent years. In the 10 days since Christmas Eve, 238 homeless and discarded dogs were taken in by the south London charity, one of the highest numbers for a decade.

About 30 per cent of these were handed in by owners, and the rest were strays captured by dog wardens - about 30 per cent - or collected from police stations.

Perhaps it is another side effect of south-east England's booming economy, but Battersea has seen dozens of pedigrees arrive this Christmas.

The last big Christmas rush was in 1989, during the last major boom, when Battersea saw a record 23,000 dogs dumped on its doorstep, more than double the total for 1999.

Alongside the usual Labrador retrievers, collies, Jack Russells and German shepherds this year is a rare guest, a small red Pomeranian puppy called Schisandra-Kay. "It's all sort of a fox-type colour, and a little bundle of fluff," said Helen Tennant, the home's public relations officer. Like other pedigrees, the Pomeranian is available for a fee of £70, slightly higher than the £50 charged for mongrels, to cover neutering, inoculations and an identification microchip.

But potential owners also have to pass an arduous series of interviews and checks, which includes a home visit, to prove they are suitable.

With undisguised exasperation, Ms Tennant said that Jasper's story is a classic case at Christmas. "The whole family has to think about it; when they go out to work; when the dog is going to be walked and the costs of having it.

"They have to be prepared to go through the 'little scamp' phase, charging around among the furniture and all that stuff... It's hard work at the beginning. It's like having a baby."

Unlike more unfortunate mongrels left for months at Battersea, Jasper was found a new home within days. "He was the most endearing little thing. He's just a dear, dear little dog," she said.

According to Duncan Green, the home's director general, this year's long festive season "has definitely created more opportunities for dogs to go missing.

"People are staying together for a longer period, doors are left open and, with the fireworks, many dogs bolt and can't find their way back. Hopefully we will be able to reunite them with their owners. But we can't condemn the people who bring pets in when they can't cope, because at least then we can find out about the animal," he said.

"Less responsible people simply abandon their dog - there's evidence that some of the sick dogs found on the streets have been abandoned because the owner has taken them to the vet and realised they can't afford the bill."

But there was, he added, some better news. The home had more than 1,400 prospective owners queueing to find a new pet since the weekend.

A total of 47 cats were also taken in over the holiday, which is about normal for the time of year, Mr Green said.

Last year the home dealt with more than 10,000 dogs and 3,500 cats. About 60 per cent of these were re-homed, 30 per cent were re-united with their owners, and the rest were put to sleep.

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