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'Freddie the seal' put down after 'ferocious' dog attack on banks of Thames
23 March 2021, 05:33 | Updated: 23 March 2021, 14:31
A seal which delighted passers-by on the banks of the River Thames has been put down following a "ferocious" attack by a passing dog.
The young common seal had been a regular sight in Barnes, west London and was affectionately nicknamed Freddie Mercury in honour of the late Queen singer by walkers.
But on Sunday afternoon he was severely injured in the dog attack, and two people who had sprang into action where also injured.
Passers-by - including a vet who was in the area - raced to his rescue before he was taken to South Essex Wildlife Hospital for treatment which included pain relief and scans.
Witness Runa Bousquet told The Chiswick Calendar the dog walker was “a good 800 metres away” when their animal ran towards Freddie.
“The poor seal was very distressed, twisting and turning its flippers," she said.
“One of the men actually started kicking the dog quite aggressively and the owner got rather upset, but at the same time she too was trying to pull her own dog off the seal.”
During the incident one of the rescuers suffered a dog bite and another was “head butted” by a terrified Freddie, she added.
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said in a statement Freddie was found to have a fractured flipper and a dislocated joint, with the hospital saying that consultations with specialist marine and orthopaedic veterinarians revealed Freddie's "prognosis is extremely poor".
"At this stage we believe the only ethical and fair option we have is to end his suffering," the hospital said in a Facebook post.
The course of action was confirmed by BDMLR, which said: "We are all absolutely gutted to hear about the extent of the injuries Freddie suffered, and highlights yet again the serious problems that can arise when humans and dogs encounter wild animals.
"We hope that his story will go a long way to helping educate people to look up and follow the appropriate guidelines for how to behave respectfully around wild animals and not cause disturbance or worse to them."
The hospital said "sadly" Freddie was not the only seal it had treated, adding: "Please folks do not go near seals and always, always, keep dogs on leads and under control."
BDMLR's CEO Alan Knight said Freddie was the victim of a "ferocious attack".
He added: “We hope that his story will go a long way to helping educate people to look up and follow the appropriate guidelines for how to behave respectfully around wild animals and not cause disturbance or worse to them.”
Common or harbour seals can often be seen in and along the river Thames, with the Zoological Society of London's
Thames Marine Mammal Survey reporting 117 sightings of the mammal this year.