THE number of Staffordshire dogs being abandoned by their owners is at a 20-year high, according to an East Lancashire animal sanctuary.

Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary currently has 31 dogs housed at its kennels in Edenfield after an influx during the past few months.

The waiting list for dogs being accepted into the sanctuary has also jumped from two weeks to almost 10, piling the pressure on the already ‘full to bursting’ kennels.

Michael Wardle, who is in charge of the dogs section at the sanctuary, said: “The situation is the worst that I have seen in my 20 years here.

“The sanctuary is full to bursting and it’s piling on a lot of pressure on us.

“The waiting list is getting bigger and bigger and it’s hard to cope.

“The recent bad press about Staffordshire dogs has had a real impact on people’s decisions and they just don’t want that breed of dog anymore.

“We have seen a huge increase in dogs over the last five months.

“People seem not to be able to cope with having them anymore and don’t want to be seen as being a bad owner.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard to re-home these dogs because less and less people want to have them as pets.”

Margaret Wild, a trustee at the sanctuary, said: “It’s becoming harder and harder to re-home these dogs.

“There has been a lot of bad publicity recently surrounding these dogs and that has resulted in a large number being taken to the sanctuary.

“It’s very sad that this has been happening.”

RSPCA chiefs said the number of abandoned bull breeds had also increased.

Steve Carpenter, deputy manager at the RSPCA Animal Centre, in Altham, said: “We are finding it is a big problem with all bull breeds, not just Staffies.

“Before Christmas all we had available for re-homing were bull breeds, but a lot of people don’t want them anymore.

“People are getting rid of them and not wanting to adopt them because of recent events.

“Certain people have turned them into a status dog and people are now wrongly thinking they are aggressive, when in the right hands they are not.”