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Letter: Swan Attacked By Dogs At Riverside Nature Reserve

Published on: 25 Feb, 2020
Updated on: 26 Feb, 2020

From Paul Robinson

On Sunday (February 23) I witnessed the result of having no limit on the number of dogs an individual can walk on their own.

I was walking alongside the Riverside Nature Reserve lake [near Burpham] and I saw a person walking seven dogs off lead on the boardwalk.

Photo of the injured swan safely at the Swan Sanctuary after being attacked by dogs on Sunday at the Riverside Nature Reserve’s lake.

The largest dog, a husky, saw a swan at least 30 feet from it and attacked it. The rest of the dogs joined the husky in the water attacking the swan as a pack.

The swan was lucky as it escaped a couple of times, was re-caught a couple of times and then escaped again and found itself with enough clear space in front of it to take off.

The husky then saw another swan and went after that one, with all the other dogs. I screamed at the owner and they got in the water and restrained the largest dog. The other dogs kept after the swan.

In the end I thought I could either watch the swan die or try and rescue it. I thought the dogs had drowned it as I couldn’t see its body but the dogs had it pinned down and there was only about six inches of neck above the water surface.

I beat the dogs off with a stick and the swan made no effort to re-surface or get away from me. As I pulled it out of the water, it didn’t struggle and its head and neck just dangled, I am sure it had given up.

I then asked someone else who was there to call the Swan Sanctuary [based at Shepperton] who came and collected it.

Last night’s (Monday, February 24) update on its condition is that it is responding to treatment but it is early days yet

If this had happened in three or four months time with cygnets around, it would have been a blood bath. What would have happened if a child had got in the way of the dogs when they were in pack mode?

The point to this letter is to say that the [Guildford Borough] council should introduce a by-law to restrict dog walkers to a maximum of four dogs per person and they should be at least kept on a lead in wildlife areas.

I would also like to suggest that all walkers have the phone number of the sanctuary to hand in their mobile phone or address book in case of coming across an injured bird. – Emergency contact – 01932 240790.

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Responses to Letter: Swan Attacked By Dogs At Riverside Nature Reserve

  1. Dave Middleton Reply

    February 26, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Firstly, I am not anti-dog and my family have owned dogs, including some very large ones, for all of my life so far. I fully understand the joy and companionship that a well trained and well behaved dog can bring.

    This sounds an appalling incident and I fear that this is likely to occur again. I have no doubt that we will see yet more large groups of dogs being walked on our commons and open spaces by commercial dog walkers, displaced from military training areas, following the Ministry of Defence’s perfectly reasonable introduction of a four dog per person limit and the requirement for commercial dog walkers to obtain and pay for a licence to use MOD training areas for business use.

    I cannot see how anyone can truly claim to be able to control a pack of several dogs properly, unless they are very well trained and properly harnessed.

  2. Paul Robinson Reply

    February 26, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    I have since learned from several husky owners, including a police officer, that a husky should never be let off a lead because their prey instinct is just too strong.

  3. Paul Robinson Reply

    February 28, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    I regret to report the swan died of its horrendous injuries last night.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    February 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    A good reason that all dogs should be kept on their leads during nesting season within Riverside Nature reserve and the over all consideration of how many dogs are permitted to be walked by any dog owner at one time – and that does not mean leaving the others yapping in the car or van in the car park!

  5. Martin Elliott Reply

    February 29, 2020 at 11:30 am

    It’s all very well proposing a “me too” set of by-laws or advice, but how would the council ensure they are enforced.

    With the increased amount of statutory duties for licencing of animal premises placed on local government, GBC transferred their Dog Warden to licencing duties and contracted out/privatised duties such as collection and care of stray dogs to a very secretive company.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      February 29, 2020 at 1:30 pm

      What do you mean ‘me too’?

      In farmer’s fields when lambs or calves are present, dogs are meant to be kept on a lead. In fact, they can if caught sheep worrying, be legally shot by a farmer.

      Surely, keeping dogs on leads in a nature reserve is not ‘woke’ or ‘me to’ rather a little bit of decency and common sense.

      Sensible laws should be observed not ‘enforced’ such that all it needs is a reminder notice nothing more nothing less ‘like don’t walk on the grass’.

    • Paul Robinson Reply

      February 29, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      If I came across a walker with more than 4 dogs, I for one would report them to the council. I would take their photo and if possible photo their vehicle reg no.

      The owner of the dogs that were responsible for the swan attack was identified by a photo being taken of them at the time and when the event was reported on Social Media. If someone thought they knew who was responsible, I would send them photo of the person.

  6. Russell Morris Reply

    March 1, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    How can anyone believe it possible to be in proper control of more than a couple of dogs off the lead? Packs of dogs lacking close control, whether dangerous or not, are intimidating to other users of the countryside.

  7. Annie Jewell Reply

    May 23, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    As a wheelchair user, there are few natural areas I can access with my dog for exercise and I would be sad to loose the open space the nature reserve offers. However, I do understand the concern.

    A well-trained dog will walk to heel off lead and return when called. That said I still leash my dog around the birds, it is just common sense. I am both a bird, nature and dog lover and frequently go bird watching with my dog beside me.

    Rather than penalise every dog owner there should be better control on those who do not bother to train their dogs or, as mentioned before, walk too many dogs at once.

    I have long thought that dog training should be a compulsory part of dog ownership. Dogs do not train themselves and it is too easy to become a dog owner with little or no understanding of the species. This is what leads to the horrific incident mentioned above.

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