Sutton's foxes have surpassed their reputation for cunning and bin-ravaging to be labelled a threat to the survival of the borough's pets.

Cheam vets practice Frean and Smythe contacted the Sutton Guardian after noticing a sharp increase in admissions for pets who had been brutally attacked by foxes.

"We have seen quite a few vicious fox attacks recently - about four or five in the last three weeks. It seems like it is on the increase. Perhaps foxes are getting more brassy, " said practice manager Melody Farrer.

Pepe the chihuahua is one pet who narrowly escaped death after incurring the wrath of a fox.

"I went downstairs to feed the animals at 6am and noticed that Pepe wasn't there," said the dog's owner Vicky Neophytou.

"We have foxes at the end of our garden and we usually lock up the end of the garden so Pepe can't get though but it was left open by mistake. I looked around for him and found him on the settee. He was nearly cold and his eye was mush."

She raced him to the vet where they had to remove his eye. Staff said he was lucky to be alive.

"I don't know why foxes are getting more bold but I think some of the neighbours might be feeding them," said Mrs Neophytou.

Ms Farrer also flagged up the case of Rosie the pet chicken who has had to undergo two rounds of surgery to recover from a fox attack, and said there were many other cases.

A spokeswoman for the council said controlling the fox population was tricky and expensive, and that the local authority is under no obligation to deal with it.

"Foxes, like most other animals, need food and a secure place to hide. They will frequently find this in most neighbourhood gardens. If the food source or hiding place is removed, they will often move on," she added.