ALMOST 150 reports of dog fighting incidents have been reported in Hampshire in the past four years, new figures from the RSPCA reveal.

The animal welfare charity released new figures ahead of Dog Fighting Awareness Day on Monday, April 8 - an American awareness day the charity believes should be extended to the UK where dog fighting is still "rife".

RSPCA dog fighting expert and Special Operations Unit (SOU) chief inspector Mike Butcher said: “Our figures show that in the past four years the RSPCA has received 7,915 reports of dog fighting incidents.

"While it’s promising to see that these figures are dropping year on year, it’s still staggering that something which has been illegal for almost 200 years and a bloody pastime which most people would consider consigned to history is still so rife.”

Dog fighting was outlawed in England in 1835 but still goes on today.

London was found to be a dog fighting "hotspot" with 653 cases in the past four years.

Last month, a group who trained and bred dogs for fighting in Lincolnshire and Wales were convicted following a trial in a case brought by the RSPCA.

John Knibbs and Kimberleigh Steele were both convicted in their absence for offences and a warrant was issued for their arrests.

They are due to be sentenced on National Dog Fighting Awareness Day.

An investigation into Mr Knibbs, who was first prosecuted for dog fighting by the RSPCA in 2009, led to a warrant at a property in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, in September 2017 where eight dogs were removed.