Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in south London has taken in 6,430 stray dogs so far this year compared with 5,335 over the same period in 2007. Staff at the animal sanctuary explain the rise in numbers partly by the recession, which has forced many owners to abandon their pets. The Royal Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has also reportedly seen an increase in calls from people concerned about the cost of keeping their animals.

The organisations have lifted the lid on the growing problem of animal dumping in the capital ahead of the Christmas period, which traditionally sees a rise in the number of strays as families abandon their animals to go away on holiday or quickly tire of new pets. The situation has been exacerbated by new procedures concerning the handling of stray animals, which are now dealt with by local councils rather than police stations, meaning that few people know where to look if they lose their cat or dog.