A Sydenham resident taking a walk in her local park last week was horrified to discover a young swan that was badly injured — having been mauled by a dog.
Elizabeth McQuillan, who lives in the Palmerston Road area, was out taking photographs of the winter scenes in Victoria Park last Thursday (December 30) when she saw the cygnet sitting on the frozen lake — covered in blood.
Ms McQuillan told the Community Telegraph: “It was so upsetting to see, at first I thought the cygnet was trapped in the ice it was sitting so still, but I soon discovered it was sitting still with shock — covered in blood.
“I then saw a park warden who told me that the swan was attacked by a dog — and that he had to pull the dog off the swan himself.
“For owners to allow their dogs free reign to do anything they please in the park is not acceptable. It’s extremely hard for swans at this time of year. They are a lot weaker trying to source food when the weather is so bad — especially so for the younger cygnets. The wardens called in the USPCA to take the cygnet — I hope it makes a full recovery, my heart goes out to the little thing. We also have to remember that it would have been extremely distressing for the children that use the park to see the young swan in this state.
“I think it’s disgraceful that dogs are not kept on their leads in the park. This is not the first time something of this nature has happened to swans in the park. A friend of mine who visits Victoria Park too has also seen a dog viciously attack a swan here — I myself have witnessed owners goading their dogs to attack swans in Mount Stewart park as they nest.
“There are so few places where we have wildlife now, and so I feel strongly that it should be protected. I do feel more needs to be done to address the problem of people not having their pet dogs on leashes and under control in public parks. I think they should put up some cameras around the place and issue fines.”
USPCA welfare officer Martin Dobbin said: “We managed to retrieve this young swan. It had a puncture wound in its neck and another in its body but thankfully not near any major arteries or internal organs. The cygnet is on antibiotics for the puncture wounds and is making a good recovery — it will be well enough to be released next week.
“Our advice for dog owners is to keep your pet on a lead especially when you are near wild animals. When a dog is hungry there is no way you can control it when it sees another animal, unless it is on a leash.”
A spokesperson from Belfast City Council said: “It is the law for all dogs to be kept under control at all times. Any dog found wandering in a public place on its own is considered a stray and our dog wardens will impound the animal.”