THE injuries inflicted on Autumn, a Pit Bull cross-breed, were chilling.
When he was picked up outside the Mayhew Animal Home, in Kensal Green, vets found him covered in burn marks from scalding water, he had broken teeth, a fractured jaw and a grossly swollen spine from being beaten with a pole.
"If someone who lives very close to here was capable of doing that, you have to ask, what will they go on to do?" says Claire Harper, one of Mayhew's animal welfare officers.
"This isn't about animal lovers being all fluffy. It's about the kind of society we live in. There are people out there who are completely desensitised to violence and that is starting with extreme cruelty to their dogs."
And with cases of battered 'status' dogs, starved and neglected 'bait' dogs - used to hone the fighting instinct of pups - or unwanted litters arriving at the Mayhew's door from across west London, the starkness of the situation is clear.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council said 59 illegal dogs - banned breeds such as the Pit Bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Filia Brasileiro - were seized in the borough between 2008 and 2009. Many were taken from youths obsessed with owning a status dog for dog fighting, protection or simply fashion.
Not all owners intend to neglect their pet and other legal status breeds, such as Staffordshire Bull terriers, are increasingly popular.
But, Harper says, the staples of dog ownership - feeding, attention, walking, vaccinations and neutering - are increasingly forgotten in the frenzy to be a dog owner.
When dogs fail to meet the warped expectations of the owner they are dumped, and the 40 kennels at the Mayhew Centre, a rescue shelter which also offers free neutering, are full as a consequence.
So are those across London and beyond, as breeding of status dogs spirals out of control. Sometimes west London feels like a Pit Bull city, where almost every teenager is being led along the street by a snarling, spitting ball of muscle and teeth.
But Harper and her team are now targeting the creatures at the other end of the chain in a bid to educate people on responsible dog ownership and burst the myths of some dog breeds being born bad.
"It is shocking when you tell a teenager that his dog will live for 15 years - they simply can't believe it," she explains.
"There's a level of ignorance and lack of understanding which leads to owners dumping their dog, neglecting it or trying to sell it down the pub for 30 quid. We are trying to offer owners some basic education on looking after their dogs, so they know what they are getting into."
The answer to how things became so bad is tied up in many of the issues of gang culture and youth exclusion, which have seen a surge in knife crime over recent years.
The Metropolitan Police treat the issue of dangerous dogs within Operation Blunt 2, the anti-knife crime initiative launched this year, in recognition of the role of status dogs in robberies and violent crimes.
What is certain is that dogs have become the ultimate fashion victims.
"Take Staffs - they are incredibly smart animals, they love people and other dogs and are in many ways the perfect pet," Harper explains.
"A quirk of nature means 'bad manners', such as straining at the lead, or jumping up on people, are common to Staffs unless they are trained otherwise, leading to a negative public perception of a breed frequently wielded by youngsters on the capital's estates.
"Many owners, youths in particular, don't want a sweet-natured dog so they beat them, neglect them and turn them into something they can control. If they can't control a dog, they get rid of it. It's expendable."
Staff puppies are widely bred for sale and are easily available online for £30 upwards. It is not long before ignorant owners, and even cruel ones, can own another dog without background checks or sanction.
The fear is that the cycle will not be broken until tragedy hits London's streets, prompting tighter laws on dog sales, breeding and ownership.
Harper says seizing dogs is treating the symptom, not the problem, and all London councils need to have animal welfare officers to help owners learn how to care for their pets.
Autumn, the battered Pit Bull cross, was put down due to the savagery of his injuries.
"Sadly, I have no doubt we'll see more of that kind of torture," she adds. "The results of over-breeding will still be playing out on London's streets in 10 to 15 years. We need to educate young people now if we are to get a handle on the situation."
* If you see a dog you are concerned about or have any questions about animal welfare, call Claire Harper on 020 8968 2352 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org