A recent incident at Fleet Pond has yet again reminded us how important it is that dog owners keep their dogs under proper control. The latest case was of a dog that caught and killed two very young cygnets. The owner was dismayed at what the dog had done and apologised for the distress caused to those who saw the incident. This dog had never shown any inclination to attack and kill anything before and yet two of this year’s young birds now lie dead.
“Under control” means that the dog should be within sight and that the dog will respond promptly to a call to heel. Very important at all times but especially when the wildlife is raising young. A dog might seem to the owner as a fun friend, not capable of harming anyone, but any dog is basically a hunter predator whether it be an Alsatian or a miniature poodle. That is why humans domesticated dogs from the beginning of the human/dog relationship. They were with us in the hunter role seeking out and bringing down prey.
Chairman of Fleet Pond Society, Colin Gray, who had the sad task of removing the bodies of the latest casualties, said: “Fleet Pond swans are accustomed to being fed at Chestnut Grove and willingly leave the water to take food. Their young will follow and, although an adult swan will attempt to defend cygnets against a dog, the dog always wins the battle. It took only a few seconds for this dog to catch and kill before the owner could intervene.”
Colin continued: “We would not wish to insist that all dogs are kept permanently on the lead at Fleet Pond, even it is was possible to enforce such a rule. Incidents like this latest one clearly show that dog owners must recognise that Fleet Pond is a nature reserve not a public park where a dog can run free without risk to wildlife. Harming or killing wildlife is breaking the law on a Site of Special Scientific Interest and could attract high fines.”
Fleet Pond Ranger, Joanna Lawrence said: “Dog walkers play an important role in the life of Fleet Pond as they are one of the main site users. We very much appreciate their vigilance which is especially important at this time of year when there are lots of young wildlife around. Even a well behaved dog can sometimes go for a young bird or deer etc. We ask, therefore, that owners keep a close eye on their dogs when around the Pond to avoid any injury to wildlife, or to the dog itself.”
This article can also be found in Get Hampshire.
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