PROBLEM dog owners who abandon dangerous and banned animals in Blackburn and Darwen should be prosecuted, a leading councillor has warned.

New figures show a big increase in the number of animals being destroyed by the council, with 34 put down last year, compared to just nine in 2009/10.

Twenty-six of those were judged to be a banned breed, or too aggressive to be rehomed. The others were deemed too ill by vets.

The rise is believed to be down to an increasing fashion for hostile looking dogs, such as Staffordshire bull terriers, with some owners training their pets to be so aggressive they become uncontrollable and have to be abandoned.

Owners can be prosecuted if they are found to have abandoned their dog without ensuring its welfare.

Blackburn councillor Mike Lee, the Conservative group leader, said: “Dangerous dogs are often owned by idiots who use them as status symbols.

“The dogs are not looked after properly and they become aggressive. We need to start targeting these owners and challenging their right to own these breeds of dog. There’s no reason why a home owner needs a bull terrier.”

The number of stray dogs collected by council wardens has actually dropped in each of the last four years, from 412 in 2009/10 to 337 last year, but the amount being put down has increased sharply.

Nine were destroyed in 2009/10 and 13 in 2010/11 before increasing to 2011/12 when 38 were put down. The increase is believed to be due to the number of agressive animals being abandoned.

Darwen councillor Paul Browne said: “I get a lot of complaints about stray dogs in the estates, and I’ve seen lads in their twenties walking around with with these bull terriers and trying to make a statement. I’m petrified of these dogs and just get out of their way.”

In April, two stray Alsatians mauled great-grandmother Hilda Taylor and her small bichon frise dog, just yards from her Darwen home. She was rescued by gym owner Martin Ainsworth, 31, and the Alsatians were put down.

Mr Ainsworth,who fought off the strays, said it was only a matter of time before there was a tragedy. He said: “I still feel strongly about dogs that become dangerous as it is down to the owner. The problem is with ownership, there should be a stricter control.”

Tony Watson, head of environmental services at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “As an authority we do everything in our power to rehome stray dogs. Putting them down is a last resort.”