Stoke Newington pensioner saves dogs from death row

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 February 2011

Denise Bennett enjoys a walk in Clissold Park with Rocky, the Staffordshire Cross, who was an abused dog she now takes care of.

Denise Bennett enjoys a walk in Clissold Park with Rocky, the Staffordshire Cross, who was an abused dog she now takes care of.


Stray dogs are kept in council pounds for just seven days being killed, and Battersea Dog’s Home alone put down nearly 3,000 dogs last year, mostly Staffies.

Denise Bennett has lost count of the Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Rottweilers and Pitbulls she has saved from dog pounds over the last couple of years.

Stray dogs are kept in council pounds for just seven days being put down, and Battersea Dog’s Home alone killed nearly 3,000 dogs last year, mostly Staffies.

Denise provides a half-way house for one dog at a time in her flat next to Clissold Park, until she is able to find them a suitable home.

“It’s Britain’s shame,” said Denise.

“If this was a poor country like India, the streets would be packed with packs of starving dogs - but because we have paid dog wardens, they pick them up and give them an injection, and people don’t realise there’s a problem.”

Denise is part of a network of dog rescuers, united by email, alerting each other when another slaughter is about to take place.

She got Daisy - a Rottweiler who has now been re-homed - after an email telling her 27 dogs were due to be put down in Kent.

“It was playing on my mind, so I drove down to this place,” said Denise.

“The manager told me to go and choose a dog. I said, “I can’t.” How can you choose one above the other? It’s like a concentration camp.

“I told him to go and get me one that’s wasn’t going to bite me, and he came out with Daisy - she was bouncing and jumping all over me, and I thought I’m too old for this.”

Denise believes the government should do more to combat the hidden problem, and would like to see compulsory neutering with the exception of owners holding a breeder’s licence.

“I would say 90 per cent on death row are Staffordshire bull terriers, they are being bred and bred and bred, the market’s saturated, they are being dumped left right and centre, and the rescue centres can’t help,” said Denise.

“Without government intervention we are fighting a losing battle,” she added.

In her spare time she raises money for Doris Banham Dog Rescue, a cash-strapped organisation which re-homes death-row dogs with teams of fosterers.

“People are very nice and put money in the pot, saying I’ve got a Staffie, and I say, “Have you got them neutered?” and they say, “Oh no, we want her to have one litter.” I tell them, “Please don’t,” I’m so angry this is allowed to continue and people are so irresponsible.

Doris Banham currently have about 200 dogs on its website for re-homing, again mainly Staffies, and are unable to take any more as they are so saturated.

Denise’s latest pet is a soppy Staffie called Rocky, who likes to sit on her lap.

“They scanned him and rang the owner, and he said I don’t want him,” explained Denise.

“He said he was fed up and to get rid of him, so it’s landed me with a big fat bill.

With vaccinations, worming, de-fleeing, and medication for a skin allergy, Rocky has cost Denise about £150 so far.

“It’s not money I can afford but I find it, it just means I don’t buy something I’d have liked, but it’s not things I need.

“They are lovely dogs, but in the wrong hands, a strong dog like that can be dangerous if it’s let loose on the general public,” warned Denise.

“I have never felt so safe, especially with the Rockweiler, the men would step off the pavement to let me go through.

Animal lover Denise who has campaigned for animal rights for over 30 years, says she prefers cats anyday.

“They are much easier, you don’t have to go walkies, dogs to me are children.

“But I can do this, it’s hands on and I’m making a difference - even if it’s only just for one animal.”

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