A mother whose pet dog was pecked to death by seagulls has been told that she cannot get rid of the birds as they are protected by law.
Emily Vincent of St Columb Minor near Newquay in Cornwall contacted the local council fearing for the safety of her four young children and two other pet dogs, but they refused to do anything. Instead they informed her that disturbing the nest would constitute a criminal offence.
The attack on the dog, Roo, was witnessed by Mrs Vincent’s three-year-old son Jace as they were playing in the back garden. She told The Times: “Jace was with Roo in the garden and then all of a sudden Jace started screaming, ‘Roo is bleeding’. I ran into the kitchen and saw Roo lying on his side. There was blood everywhere. Roo had managed to run indoors and then collapsed. Blood was coming out of his head. It was like a murder scene.
“I couldn’t get any sense out of Jace initially but then he kept saying, ‘The big bird has got a sharp beak’. Roo was breathing but had brain damage, so he had to be put down.
“When we got back from the vets I contacted the council to find out what rights I had about getting rid of the nest. I was eventually told the seagulls are protected and I must leave the nest alone.”
Roo’s death is not the first incident of this kind: in May, a chihuahua named Bella was also pecked to death in her owner’s garden in Honiton, Devon.
Devon and Cornwall Police have confirmed that it is an offence, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird, or intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
PC Paul Freestone said: “People need to be aware of the law. As soon as a gull lays down just a few bits of material to start a nest, that nest is protected.”
Tony Whitehead from the The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) advised people to carry umbrellas for protection as nesting birds can be extremely protective of their young.
Parent gulls have a “real issue with personal space” when raising young, he said, adding: “This is when they swing into full protective mode. If you have an anxious gull parent to contend with, the best advice is to walk with an umbrella up.”
Mrs Vincent said her children are devastated, as they had had Yorkshire terrier Roo for six years after rescuing him as a two year old. “He was the most placid dog you could ever meet and would never have defended himself. He was the most loyal, loving little dog. The children were very close to him and are devastated.”