THE number of Staffordshire bull terriers being abandoned by cash-strapped owners has risen to more than 20 a week, leading one local dog charity to issue a desperate plea for donations.
Kay Hamilton, the Duchess of Hamilton, chairperson of the Scottish Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue (SSBTR), said that the East Lothian-based charity has as many as four pups a day handed in by owners who can no longer afford to either keep them or have them spayed.
A nationwide spike in the number of unwanted Staffies has been attributed to over-breeding and the prohibitive cost of neutering the animals.
Kay, who set up the charity in 1973, said in all the years since she had “never seen the situation as bad as it is now” .
She said: “It’s a huge problem and it’s getting out of control. We are seeing a continuous stream of owners handing in their dogs because they cannot afford to keep or spay them.
“I think it’s a knock-on effect from the economic situation as people lose their jobs. One thing is for sure, we are seeing a lot more people in recent weeks.
“We get a reduced price for spaying from vets – £100 for a male and £120 for bitches – but we can’t afford to keep up with the numbers we are seeing.
“At any one time we can cater for up to 50 dogs, but our space is now running out and we need to find new foster homes, as well as money.
“Our busiest period, Christmas, is coming fast, and I expect the problem will only get worse after that.
“Usually we set aside £10,000 to get us through the festive period but this year I expect we’ll need closer to £15,000.”
As a result of the spike in the number of unwanted Staffies, Kay is calling on the Scottish Parliament to beef up breeding laws. At present, the legal limit for registered breeders is three litters per year.
She said: “A dog can have eight pups in a litter, two of those might find their way to show homes, the rest will be sold to the highest bidder, which just feeds back in to the overbreeding problem. People have this mistaken belief that all they have to do is buy a Staffie and mate it with another dog and they’ll make a profit on the pups.”
National vet charity PDSA has also seen a rise in the number of Staffies being handed in. However, many dog owners are put off approaching the charity as they must first qualify and then pay a fee to use the charity’s spaying service.
A spokeswoman said: “To access PDSA PetAid services, pet owners must be in receipt of either housing benefit or council tax benefit.”
Earlier this month, the Scottish SPCA launched a national campaign to encourage would-be dog owners in Edinburgh and the Lothians to think about taking on a Staffie, as almost half the dogs rescued and cared for by the charity are Staffordshire bull terriers or similar crossbreeds.
A charity survey revealed that a Staffie will spend, on average, 54 days in the charity’s care before it is found a new home, while all other breeds take an average of 26 days.