THE council's dog warden is urging that pooches are not just for Christmas and to consider adopting man's best friend this festive season.
Tara Boswell, who has been Croydon Council's dog warden for nearly six years, works all hours to help the borough's hounds find a loving home.
The 28-year-old sees many young stray dogs in January and February because of the people abandoning dogs after buying them as Christmas presents.
Tara said there has been a general increase nationwide in dog abandonment and misconceptions of strays often lead to less people re-homing them.
She said: "Puppies in general can be hard work because they can chew and need training.
"Times are really hard at the moment for rescue dogs and we encourage people to adopt rather than buy. The biggest mistake people make is that rescue dogs are somehow broken, have issues and are hard work, and that's not always the case.
"There are dogs that are given up by owners that have lived with children, other animals and people and are perfectly fine to go to a new home with no behavioural issues at all.
"We can never really say why a dog has been abandoned but reasons include cost, if a work situation changes or moving house."
Around 350 stray dogs a year are picked up by Tara, many that are mistreated, thin and ill with 50 per cent being Staffordshire Bull Terriers and bull breeds.
Ziggy, pictured, is thought to be a three-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross.
He was found walking around central Croydon this month after being rescued by a member of public and will be up for re-homing. "Staffies are lovely but I don't think people realise how much energy they have got," said Tara. "My job can be hard at times, but all I can do is my bit to try and help which I enjoy.
"Sometimes you have to try and put the emotions aside to be able to properly and effectively get those dogs to a good place."
Tara picks up stray dogs and those needing to be re-homed. Once in care, there is a statutory obligation to keep them for seven days. If current or new owners are not found in that time, they then go to independent rescue organisations around the country.
She said: "Seeing a dog going to its new home and recover is definitely one of the best parts of my job. I keep in contact with some of the people who have [given a new home] to our dogs."
Tara has two rescue dogs of her own, Millie and Riley, but wishes she could have more. However, she knows that there are dogs for every lifestyle.
If the warden's kennel cannot find a suitable dog for an inquirer, they are put in contact with a rescue organisation.
"We tend to do home checks, there's an adoption fee which goes back into rescue, and ensure dogs are micro-chipped," Tara said. "If anything is to go wrong, we know they are in the best possible condition they can be.
"If you're thinking of rescuing, keep an open mind because a lot of the time people want something specific but then go to rescue centres and come back with a dog completely different."
Some rescue centres are based in Croydon. However, for those who want a dog from an organisation outside of the borough, Tara transports the dogs to their new homes.
"We work with several rescue homes to create a network for stray dogs. My priority is getting the dogs out of the kennels and into rescue organisations so they have the chance to be re-homed and so we have more space at our rescue kennel."
Tara advises potential dog-buyers to go to the Kennel Club and not to buy puppies online without seeing the parents and researching the lifestyle that breed needs.
For more information, call 02087266000 or e-mail Tara on email@example.com