Young gang members in London trade dogs like mobile phones and use them in illegal activities like drug deals and debt collection. They even inject them with steroids to make them more aggressive during fights and thereby enhancing their tough image reveals a new research.

According to a study conducted by Middlesex University London, young men are breeding aggressive dogs like mastiffs, pit bulls and akitas as “business assets.” These so-called "status dogs" are being used as a "commodity" for security and making money in gangs.

The study, which has revealed that dogs are being "traded up and down" like mobile phones, also has made a shocking revelation. It claims that the gangs even use vitamin supplements to build up their pet’s muscles and inject them with steroids to make them more aggressive during fights.

The study says that the most aggressive dogs could make more than £400 ($609), while some animals could be sold for as much as £10,000 ($15229).

“For many young people, dogs are increasingly viewed as a commodity which can be traded up or down like a mobile phone,” said Dr Simon Harding of Middlesex University. “It has become less about whether the dog will fit into family life and more about 'what will this dog do for me, how much will it make me?”

Harding added that it’s their reputation for being aggressive and intimidating, because of which bull breeds "are also used in drug deals, gambling debts and loan-sharking, where their owners do not have recourse to law if the money owed is not paid because his business is illegal.”

"The dog says, 'I am here to be taken seriously' - it acts as a 'minder' and a 'heavy' when collecting dues. People believe that possession of an aggressive dog means that the threats posed by such men will be carried out,” Harding told Sky News.

As part of his research, Harding interacted with both illegal and legal dog owners as well as gang members.

"It's not just a dog, it's a half bull mastiff and half pit bull,” a 16-year-old boy told Dr Harding. "I'll probably get another. We are looking to breed it and we would get about £2,000 per dog."

The study has also revealed that since 1991, there has been a rise of 551 percent in hospital admissions for dog bites, increasing the risk of dog attack, especially among children. Harding has called for animal welfare agencies and police to deal with the issue more seriously.

Last month, the body of a 14-year-old girl named Jade Anderson was discovered in the Great Manchester area of the UK, after she was mauled by a pack of dogs. Reports said that Anderson used to breed pups at her terraced home and sold them on eBay. However, none of them were illegal. As per the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, the banned breeds of dogs included pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo argentino and fila braziliero. But a lot of people cross the dogs with other animals in order to hide their breed, reported.