THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition supporting a North-East businessman who has received numerous death threats following allegations he slaughtered unwanted greyhounds.

It is believed almost 2,000 people have given their support to David Smith, of Seaham, east Durham, who is claimed to have legally carried out the cut-price killing of up to 10,000 dogs at his seaside bungalow.

Animal rights activists have continued to bombard him with threatening calls and Mr Smith, who has already received a number of death threats, continued to find himself under siege.

Inspector Gary Fraser, of Seaham police, said: "There have been more threats in the last fortnight and we are taking them seriously - and all will be investigated."

Mr Smith was caught on camera taking delivery of greyhounds and was later photographed wheeling their corpses from a garden shed.

It is claimed the father-of-three used a legitimately-held bolt gun to put down the dogs for £10 a time, and buried the thousands of bodies in the grounds of his home.

But Mr Smith said at the time that he believed he was providing a service, and any money he made was donated to children's charities.

Police cleared Mr Smith of any illegal activities, but the Environment Agency is continuing to investigate the issue of the alleged mass burial ground.

This week, it emerged that while many residents knew of Mr Smith's activities, he remained well-respected in the town - so respected that up to 2,000 residents have signed a petition in his support.

Tom Healer, who runs a security company, is believed to be organising the petition, and at first agreed to talk to The Northern Echo.

But at his Seaham home yesterday, he refused to comment on the document, saying he had been advised by his solicitor not to "seek any publicity".

His solicitor, he said, had instead asked for the petition to be lodged with him.

Mr Healer had earlier confirmed that almost 2,000 people had signed the petition, copies of which have been displayed in shops.

Ivor Stocker, director of the Retired Greyhound Trust said: "The trust exists to find loving homes for ex-racing greyhounds.

"It would be fantastic if a few of those 2,000 people who have signed the petition in support of David Smith, many of whom are clearly dog lovers and have dog welfare at heart, were able to offer homes for these wonderful animals and help them live out their retirement to the fullest."