DOZENS of trees have been savaged by pitbull-type dogs in ‘training’ for illegal fights.

Today, council bosses warned owners they face hefty fines if they are caught damaging the likes of silver birches and oaks in Burnley’s historic Towneley Park and cemetery.

And there are concerns that the practice, which leaves trees stripped of lumps of bark, could kill them and change the landscape in some of Burnley’s most popular venues.

Police have confirmed they have received reports of dogs being urged to attack trees and have asked witnesses to come forward.

Trees have been decimated just yards from the main gates to Unity College, along Towneley Holmes Road.

The Friends of Towneley Park have highlighted the issue in their latest newsletter after being warned by rangers that “pitbull type dogs were being trained to attack trees up and down the road”.

Simon Goff, the borough council’s head of green spaces said: “This is an issue that’s happening all over the country, not just in Burnley.

“People are setting their dogs on to the trunks of the trees which damages the bark and ultimately can kill the tree.

“It’s criminal damage and costs taxpayers if we have to replace damaged trees, and even more worrying is that the dog owners are training their animals to fight.

“It’s unacceptable and our rangers have been instructed to keep an eye out for any suspicious behaviour.”

Mr Goff confirmed there had been similar incidents reported in the grounds of Burnley Cemetery and Bank Hall Park.

Damaging trees had previously been considered a ‘big city’ problem, with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol previously reporting serious problems.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said there had been at least two reports of dogs being set on trees in Towneley Park recently.

He said: “We would urge anyone who has witnessed these kinds of incidents to come forward and contact Burnley Police.”

RSPCA officers say dog-fighting is an ongoing issue across the north west but they have had no specific complaints in the Burnley area recently.

Council officials say they will compile evidence of trees being attacked, and pass the information on to police.

Posters have been erected at all three locations, urging park and cemetery users to report any sightings of such damage.

Witnesses can call rangers on 01282 831053.