A XL Bully dog that was found dead in a Sutton alleyway under “hugely concerning circumstances” died after a serious injury to its head, according to the RSPCA.

A member of the public made the “shocking discovery” in Waltham Road in Sutton, on Saturday, December 30 - just a day before the start of the ban on the breed.

The dog had its legs bound together, one of its ears cut off, and had been set on fire, the charity said.

Vets have suggested that the dog died from a serious head injury.

RSPCA inspector Harriet Daliday said: “This poor dog was found in such sad circumstances - with his legs tied together, and set on fire.

“While we cannot be sure how the head injury was sustained, obviously the circumstances are hugely concerning - and vets believe the serious head trauma was the suspected cause of this dog's sad death.

“We’ve understandably seen an outpouring of concern from the public about this dog - and we continue to urge anyone with relevant information to aid our enquiries to contact our inspectorate appeal line as soon as possible.

"Since this incident was reported to us, the RSPCA has identified the dog’s understandably devastated owner - who is not a suspect based on the current evidence we have."

The dog’s death has sparked reaction in the community, leading to misleading information circulating on social media, according to police.

They clarified that the dead dog was not the same as another previously owned by a local family, who are now reportedly facing hostility.

The police confirmed the dog's owner was identified and not banned from animal ownership.

They reiterated their call for people to withhold speculation during the ongoing investigation.

The dog was found the day before new laws came into force making it illegal to breed, sell, or abandon XL bullies.

Owners have to apply for an exemption by February 1 to keep their dogs.

The RSPCA opposes the ban, introduced in response to a spate of attacks by XL bullies, and previously warned it could lead to an influx of the dogs being taken to animal shelters or abandoned.

The most recent statement released by Metropolitan Police says:“It appears that some information circulating the local community and social media is inaccurate, leading to increased tensions and further crimes/incidents.

“For clarity, the identity of the XL Bully Dog found deceased on 30 December 2023 has been confirmed. The owner has been verified and was not subject to a ban from having animals.

“This dog is not the same as one previously owned by a family in the local area who are now being targeted following this incident.

“Nevertheless, the animal cruelty that has been committed is being treated seriously and anyone's suspected involvement will be investigated.

“Once again, we encourage people not to speculate while enquiries are ongoing and to contact the RSPCA appeals line on 0300 123 8018 with any information.”

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “The RSPCA has issued an update to an ongoing appeal for information, after a dog - thought to be an XL bully - was found dead in a South London alleyway having experienced major head trauma.

“A member of the public found the body of the dog on Waltham Road, Carshalton, on Saturday 30 December. Sadly, the dog's front legs were bound and set alight - and one ear was partially cut off.

“The Police were contacted by the member of the public after the grim discovery was made - and officers alerted the RSPCA, with enquiries from the animal welfare charity still ongoing.

“RSPCA officers are now continuing to urge anyone with relevant information about what happened to their dog to come forward and support their enquiries.

“Those with information should contact the RSPCA’s appeals line on 0300 123 8018, quoting reference 01202686”.