THE number of stray dogs put to sleep in Yorkshire is double the national average, according to figures released by a dog rescue organisation.

Last year, councils across the county handled a total of 10,226 stray dogs, of which 12 per cent were put down, he Dog Rescue Federation has revealed.

Just under half (44 per cent) of the region's strays were returned to their owners.

The Federation said the figures revealed some positive developments including an overall reduction in the number of stray dogs being handled by councils.

However, the survey also highlighted the ongoing problem of dog abandonment with only one in every two stray dogs reclaimed by their owners.

The Federation claimed that it was not always easy to obtain accurate data from local councils even though they are legally required to keep records of all the stray dogs they handle and how they dispose of them.

Yorkshire councils failed to explain what had eventually happened to seven per cent of the stray dogs they had handled.

Federation spokesperson Peter Egan said: "We are completely in the dark about what eventually happens to many of the dogs handled in the UK.

"We're not saying that councils deliberately try to hide what they've done with these dogs but we do strongly suspect that many of those unaccounted for may have ended up being put to sleep.

"Local authorities have a statutory right to put stray dogs down if their owners fail to reclaim them after seven days.

"Far too many young and healthy stray dogs are at risk of being destroyed in this way by lethal injection so we need accurate information to understand the true extent of the problem."

In Yorkshire, nearly 2,500 stray dogs were passed to privately-run kennels. The Federation suspects that many of them were put down, although this is not recorded in the council figures.