Staffordshire Bull Terriers abandoned in record numbers by their owners are being targeted at a Midlands dogs home by opportunists claiming the animals belong to them.
Manager of Birmingham Dogs Home Pete Grigg said dozens of the dogs have been abandoned at the home since a string of attacks by dangerous dogs on children earlier this year.
"People are letting them go because they are worried about what they might do," he said. He added that the home had not been able to move the dogs into new homes because of the bad image of the breed.
Panicking dog owners have been deserting the Staffordshire, even though it is not banned by the Dangerous Dogs Act. The home in Digbeth takes in 100-125 new dogs a week, 20 per cent more than last year, many of them Staffordshires and cross-breeds.
"People are put off by dogs that look like that now, after all the media coverage," said Mr Grigg.
He said that although he could not find happy families willing to take the dogs on, they were increasingly likely to be a target for people looking to steal the valuable breed.
"We get people coming to try to collect dogs that aren't theirs," said Mr Grigg. "One time I had three people in here trying to collect the same Staffordshire, they were all trying to claim it was theirs.
"Luckily, it had an identification chip, so I could tell who it actually belonged to. The real owner told me it had been stolen a few months before it turned up at the home."
Staffordshire Bull Terriers have become the top target for thieves who know they can make money selling them on.
Once last year, a thief scaled the 20 ft wall surrounding Birmingham Dogs Home specifically to steal a Staffordshire Bull Terrier from under the noses of staff. Figures released yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act showed that more than half of all dogs stolen by thieves were Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
A police report said: "There is the possibility that such dogs could be used by criminals such as drug dealers or stolen property handlers to protect their criminal assets at various locations including homes, outbuildings or cars."
In January The Birmingham Post reported that Staffordshire Bull Terriers had been unfairly demonised by the spate of Pit Bull Terrier attacks.
Although they appear similar to the banned Pit Bull breed, Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not illegal, and are not dangerous at all if brought up properly.
James Beaufoy, secretary of the West Midlands-based Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, described it as a case of "mistaken identity", and said that Staffies make ideal pets.
Stewart Addison, a removals firm director and Staffordshire owner, sponsors kennels for dogs at the Sunnyside Dogs Home near Wolverhampton. The kennels are used to house abandoned Staffordshires.
Mr Addison said: "People are idiots if they don't know the difference between Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers. It's unfortunate, especially for the dogs."