Teenage gangsters are spending up to €5,000 each on American bulldogs and then cutting the ears off to make them look more vicious.
Sources said gardai in the Finglas area, as well as in other Dublin districts, are "monitoring the situation" as it has emerged that a number of young thugs have bought the expensive dogs.
"This is an increasing trend, and in the Finglas area alone there are about a dozen fellas who have these terrifying-looking dogs," a source told the Herald.
"It seems that walking around with these dogs is a status symbol for these individuals, just as much as wearing designer clothes such as Canada Goose jackets.
"Having such scary-looking dogs obviously can be used for intimidation purposes as well, and by cutting the ears off the animals it makes them look even more terrifying."
The sickening trend has also been observed in Blanchardstown, Coolock and Ballyfermot.
There are major concerns that the teenagers are guilty of animal cruelty offences.
"Many of the fellas who have these dogs are generally aged between 16 and 19. They're the up-and-coming generation in gangland," the source said.
"The fact that they get the ears of the dogs cut off shows they have no interest in the welfare of these animals.
"The fact they can afford to buy these dogs while not being in employment also raises its own obvious questions."
One theory about the popularity of the dogs among young criminals is that they got the idea from Finglas drug dealer Mr Flashy, who used to have two similar fearsome animals at his home for protection.
Sources said Mr Flashy - the 27-year-old Kinahan cartel-aligned dealer who cannot be named for legal reasons - has been "keeping his head down" during the coronavirus pandemic after being arrested in late March following a garda pursuit across the city involving more than 20 cars.
"He was released without charge on that occasion and seems to have been holed up in a city centre safe house since then," a source said.
Meanwhile, gardai are becoming increasingly concerned about the criminal activities of some of the teenage thugs with the expensive bulldogs.
One of the youth had close links to Paul 'Farmer' Martin a 39-year-old criminal from Kippure Park, Finglas, who was shot to death in the Jolly Toper pub in Finglas in August 2008.
Another of the young thugs, who has been walking the streets with his expensive bulldog, is part of a gang that was formed in the Cloonlara area of Finglas in the aftermath of the murder of criminal John Daly, who was shot dead in October 2007.
Another up-and-coming criminal who has one of the prized animals was previously detained at the Oberstown Campus for a savage assault he carried out in the Cabra area when he was in his early teens.
It is understood that gardai did not receive a complaint in relation to reports that a bulldog owned by one of the young criminals was stolen by a rival mob, killed and then sent back to him.
"These are the up-and-coming young criminals and their activities are causing a lot of concern in the community - properties linked to these fellas have already been raided by gardai this year," a source said.
"The expectation is that you will be hearing a lot more about these fellas in the years to come."