POLICE in Redbridge have dealt with a total of 20 “dangerous dog offences” in the last year following an increase in people acquiring illegal breeds.

The offences include incidents around the borough where owners have allowed dogs to get out of control in both public and private places, as well as dog fighting, police have said.

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Police said: “The Metropolitan Police Service has been working hard to tackle the issue of dangerous dogs.

“If we receive a complaint or intelligence about illegal or potentially dangerous dogs, we will investigate and take action.

“This includes seizing dogs and prosecuting owners where necessary.”

There has also been an increase in dogs being used in gang-related crime, drug dealing and anti-social behaviour, she added.

The spokeswoman said: “This led us to set up a dedicated unit to deal with the problem [in London].

“Members of the Status Dogs Unit can identify dogs, provide expert witness in court, conduct pre-planned operations to seize suspected illegal or potentially dangerous dogs and provide advice about the issue to other agencies.”

Officers at borough level are responsible for carrying out the investigative side of cases involving dangerous dogs, the spokeswoman said.

Police in Redbridge also work with the local authority and the RSPCA, as well as other animal welfare agencies, to tackle the problem.

But RSPCA inspector Dawn Avery, whose area of responsibility includes part of Redbridge, reassured residents that the problem is relatively uncommon in the Wanstead and Woodford area.

She said: “I don’t get a great number of calls about dog fighting or problems with dogs in that bit of Redbridge.

“There’s probably quite a number of bull terrier dogs about but they’re in responsible homes.”

An illegal pit bull type dog was handed to police earlier this month after Parks Police intervened in a dog fight in Valentines Park, Ilford.

The animal was taken to secure kennels but no arrests were made.