THE Dogs Trust has defended its decision to put a dog down despite a public outcry on social media.

The charity faced criticism after deciding to put the Collie crossbreed Bella to sleep.

Large numbers of dog lovers claimed they would be willing to take on Bella.

Bella, who was handed over to Dogs Trust Basildon in January by her elderly owner after she became nervous and aggressive around an older dog, was put down after suffering from severe anxiety.

The decision was made by specially trained veterinary staff.

A spokesman from Dogs Trust said: “The sad fact is, Bella was not a healthy dog.

“We follow the World Health Organisation’s definition: health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.

“Bella had become extremely fearful resulting in her attacking the other dog in the home, which led to her family bringing her to us.

“She was not an adaptable girl, and could not move or eat when anyone was around. She was in a constant state of severe anxiety and the fact she couldn’t cope with change meant that it would have been unfair to rehome, or foster her.

“We did all we could for Bella and explored every possible option but our expert behaviour and veterinary teams came to the unanimous decision to put her to sleep because this was the only way to ensure she would not suffer further.

“Her mental state had deteriorated to the extent that it could not be reversed, and any other decision would have caused her unnecessary suffering which no one at Dogs Trust or her former family were prepared to see happen.

“We have kept Bella’s family updated every step of the way and they understood and supported our final decision to put her to sleep.

“There is nothing more rewarding for our staff than to see a dog we have loved and cared for go on to find a happy new home. It is why we do what we do, and there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a dog we care for suffer or be put to sleep.”

However, since the decision on Thursday thousands of people have voiced their disappointment in the decision by Dogs Trust.

One petition, calling for Dogs Trust to change their statement ‘we never put a healthy dog down’, gained more than 1,700 signatures in less than 24 hours.

Karen Goodyear, 40, of Chelmsford, who started the petition, said: “I am not surprised at the response from the petition, overwhelmed – yes. Surprised, no. We are a nation of animal lovers, we are the majority. This is justice for Bella – the one without a voice, who not everyone was willing to give up on.”

Efforts to find Bella a new home before her death were concentrated in the Tilly’s Cloud Facebook group, who share information about the welfare of Essex animals.