Dangerous dogs 'bred for drug deals and crime by gangs'
Young gang members are breeding dangerous dogs to facilitate drug deals and debt collection and enhance their tough image, new research claims.
A Middlesex University London study found young men were using mastiffs, pit bulls, akitas and other aggressive dogs as a "commodity" for making money.
It claimed dogs were being "traded up and down" like mobile phones.
The study found there has been a rise of 551% in hospital admissions for dog bites since 1991.
Author Dr Simon Harding said: "It has become less about whether the dog will fit into family life and more about 'what will this dog do for me, how much will it make me?'
"The dog says 'I am here to be taken seriously' - it acts as a 'minder' and a 'heavy' when collecting dues.
"People believe that possession of an aggressive dog means that the threats posed by such men will be carried out."
The study found owners were building up their animals' muscles with vitamin supplements and even injecting them with steroids.
One 16-year-old boy told Dr Harding: "It's not just a dog, it's a half bull mastiff and half pit bull.
"I'll probably get another. We are looking to breed it and we would get about £2,000 per dog."
Another boy, 17, said of pit bulls: "People know that if you are breeding you are making money from them."
Dr Harding called for animal welfare agencies and police to work more closely to tackle the issue.