Dog walkers urged to keep pets under control after swans chased at Sudbury water meadows

Sudbury Water Meadows. The view of the Mill Hotel Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Sudbury Water Meadows. The view of the Mill Hotel Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

Dog owners at a west Suffolk beauty spot are being urged to keep their pets under control after reports of swans being chased.

An incident at Sudbury’s water meadows was reported last week and two swans have previously been killed by dogs at the picturesque spot in the past three years.

The swan deaths led to a leaflet being launched by the Sudbury Common Lands Charity in 2016 – urging dog walkers to control their pets around wildlife.

The leaflet was originally published in response to a rise in the number of dog walkers on the pasture lands and an increase in reports of attacks on wild fowl.

It was placed in dispensers at entrances to the meadows, which have designated Local Nature Reserve and County Wildlife Site status.

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Roy Spicer, of the local Swan Watch group, said there was an incident at the common lands last week when two dogs went into the water and chased after swans.

He said: “We also had incidents where three or four dogs have gone for the swans near the Mill Hotel, some of which had week-old cygnets.

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“People should be aware that they can be fined up to £5,000 it they let their dog attack a swan.”

According to DEFRA, with regard to dogs attacking swans, or the wilful failure of a dog owner to prevent their dog from attacking a swan, a court does have the power, under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, to impose a muzzling order on a dog of any type which it judges actually or potentially dangerous.

In addition, the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 makes it a criminal offence to allow an unmuzzled ferocious dog to be off a lead in a street, park or open space.

It is also an offence to allow any dog to attack or menace any person or animal.

In terms of breeding, the female swan lays up to seven eggs between late April and early May, which hatch after 35-41 days.

The cygnets sometimes remain with the adult birds for four or five months.

Adrian Walters, common lands ranger, said cygnets faced several other hazards including some being washed over the weir.

He said: “Although we have not had any reports of serious attacks this year, it is the time of year when the swans have cygnets so it is important to remind people to keep their dogs under control.”

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