“It was just horrible – they told me to take this dog out to the back of the shelter and smack it over the head with half a brick,” sobs Henry Jiztrom, a former worker at the Balham Canine Samaritan Centre, which is currently being investigated by both police and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), over accusations of cruelty. “Even as I was raising the brick ready to hit it, he was wagging his tail, obviously trusting me completely. After I hit it, the poor devil just staggered around, foaming at the mouth and bleeding from his ears – I just couldn’t hit him again to finish the job!” According to Jiztrom, the animal shelter’s manager then intervened. “He said it was OK and that I’d done enough,” Jiztrom recalls. “Apparently he then took the dog to a local vet, told them it had been hit by a car, and had it put down,” The forty-two year old volunteer worker came forward with his story following local press allegations that the South London animal charity – which, in its advertising, vows that it never puts down a healthy animal – had been deliberately maiming animals it couldn’t place with new owners, in order to justify having the dogs destroyed.

“I really don’t see what the fuss is about. All we say is that we never put down a healthy dog – if we hadn’t made out sure that the dogs in question actually had something wrong with them, we’d have been guilty of hypocrisy, wouldn’t we?” declares Jake Pokebutt, who managed the shelter on behalf of the charity. “Personally, I always thought it was a rash claim to make, it commits us to having to provide for unpopular dogs that nobody wants for life. In reality that means we could be having to pay the upkeep of the furry bastards for ten years or more – have you any idea how much that costs?” Pokebutt has vigourously defended the charity’s actions, pointing out that many of the stray and unwanted dogs they take in are absolutely impossible to find new homes for. “Obviously, some of them are just vicious bastards that nobody in their right mind would allow into their houses, but others are just plain ugly, or too stupid, to make pets,” he claims. “Sometimes they just have anti-social habits. Take that one we got Jiztrom to whack over the head – it had terrible, uncontrollable flatulence. I mean, who would want an animal like that stinking their house out all day? It was bloody evil, I can tell you – people used to throw up at the smell. It was no wonder he’d been at the shelter for eighteen months before we decided to put him out of his misery!”

Pokebutt is adamant that the charity’s policy toward the unwanted animals was actually humane, and far kinder than keeping them at the shelter indefinitely. “People just don’t appreciate how demoralising it is for these poor dogs to be passed over by prospective owners on a daily basis,” he says. “They can’t imagine how traumatic day after day, month after month, of rejection can be – it’s just bloody cruel to keep putting them through that! Really, we were doing them a favour by facilitating their humane destruction!” Nevertheless, the manager concedes that the brick incident was a little extreme and unrepresentative of the shelter’s usual approach to ‘problem’ dogs. “Ordinarily we wouldn’t even consider fracturing an animal’s skull in such a crude manner,” he explains. “In the past we’d favoured breaking one of their legs with baseball bat – generally speaking, a severe limp is enough to get a local vet to agree to putting a dog to sleep.”

However, local vets apparently became suspicious at the number of dogs the shelter was bringing to them for humane destruction. “I’m surprised we got along with that method for as long as we did ,” Pokebutt muses. “We got through five local surgeries before they began pointing out that broken legs weren’t the sort of injuries you’d expect dogs living in an animal shelter to be suffering from. Especially not in the numbers ours were suffering.” Following the problems surrounding the brick incident, Pokebutt decided a new strategy was needed. “The problem was finding someone who could go through with bashing a cute little doggie over the head with a brick. Most of our volunteers were like that idiot Jiztrom – too bloody squeamish! I told him he should have put a pillowcase over its head so he wouldn’t have to see its eyes,” he says. “Anyway, I decided that instead of maiming the beasts ourselves, I’d enter our ‘problem’ canines into illegal dog fights. Any injuries they received could be passed off as having resulted from a fight with another dog at the shelter. That way, not only could we justify getting the injured mutt put down, but we could also get rid of the one that allegedly attacked it on the grounds that it was mentally ill and bloody dangerous!”

Pokebutt quickly found that using his canine charges in illegal dog fights had other advantages. “You can win big money on some of these fights – the winner can take home cash running into four figures sometimes. All tax free!” he enthuses. “It was brilliant – some of our ‘problem’ dogs were amongst the most vicious bastards South of the river. We really cleaned up!”  According to Pokebutt, the winnings from the dog fighting generated sufficient funds for the shelter that they were able reduce the number of dogs they were maiming. “It was a win-win situation – a victimless crime really. After all, the dogs we used were vicious sods that enjoyed biting chunks out of other dogs anyway,” he says. “Besides, the reality is that even if we were able to re-home any of these dogs, they’d probably still have ended up involved in illegal dog fights. Trust me, the ‘good home’ all a lot of these animals end up going to is a wire cage in a grotty back yard on some council estate, where they’re regularly poked with sticks to make them more aggressive.”

Pokebutt, who is currently suspended from his post at the shelter and facing animal cruelty charges, remains unrepentant over his actions. “What else was I supposed to do? It isn’t my fault that people didn’t want to give homes to the dogs in our care,” he argues. “Can I help it if they all want those nice, well-behaved, pretty-looking pedigree dogs they see in adverts and TV shows – all we have are mangy half-breeds with behavioural problems and a limited budget!”