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Record rise in dog fights

THE NUMBER of dog fights being reported has risen 15-fold in four years, according to figures from the RSPCA.

There were 24 reported to the animal charity in 2004, but this rose to 358 last year.

Last week, the RSPCA held a conference to discuss ways of tackling the problem of owners using their dogs as a status symbol and to frighten people. Although the issue was only touched upon by one speaker, the demographic groups involved in dog fighting have changed in recent years and part of the problem stems from an influx of immigrants form Eastern European countries where dog fighting is commonplace.

Government ministers say that the current laws are already tough enough to deal with irresponsible dog owners.

The RSPCA's Clare Robinson told the BBC that aggressive dogs are a big problem, which is related to gang violence in inner city areas.

She said: ‘Anecdotal evidence from our inspectors and from some police officers suggest that some of these individuals feel that the police will do something about it if they carry a knife or they carry a gun.

But they're not so interested if they have got a dog that is aggressive or dangerous. And so it causes us great concern when we see the welfare of these dogs not being protected properly. And obviously, for the local communities, they're being put at risk by having dangerous dogs out there on the street.’

The RSPCA is suggesting all owners get their dogs microchipped and that more dogs should be neutered.

Ms Robinson said it was owners who do not control their pets properly who should be targeted by the authorities. ‘We feel that very often the important agencies look at the wrong end of the lead and pin it on the dog, when in actual fact we need to change owner behaviour and actually tackle those irresponsible dog owners, so they don't give good dog owners a bad name.’

The government says existing laws were reviewed last year and are tough enough to call irresponsible owners to account. Plans to amend the laws on dogs and dog control have not progressed any further since a report was drawn up by the multi-agency Dangerous Dogs Act Stud Group in May 2007.