A WARNING has been issued to dog walkers to keep their pets on a leash after treacherous thawing ice claimed the lives of one man and at least three dogs over the weekend.
A Springer Spaniel died after falling through thin ice at Lochore Meadows Country Park in Fife, despite firefighters’ brave efforts to reach the stricken dog using special equipment.
The incident occurred on the same day that a man and his two dogs died after he attempted to rescue them from a river near the Infinity Bridge in Stockton, Teesside.
And on Saturday morning firefighters rescued a 15-stone Great Dane after he fell through an iced-over Water of Leith, with the dog only surviving the incident because of his substantial weight.
The emergency services and the SSPCA have warned dog walkers that attempting to rescue pets from icy waters is “extremely dangerous”.Bill Wilson, team leader at Lochore Meadows Country Park, said that the owner of the spaniel could have died if he had tried to rescue his dog.
He said: “The dog went through pretty much in the middle of the loch, near to one of the islands.
“I’m really glad this chap didn’t try to rescue his dog, he almost certainly would have died.
“Most of the ice around that area was thick, but it only takes a small area of thin ice to cause a very serious accident.
“The rescue crews retrieved the dog but sadly it was too late to save him.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened during this cold spell.
“On Christmas Day a dog was chasing a swan and some ducks in the loch and it went through the ice.
“The owner tried to rescue it and went under as well – it was lucky that we managed to get to them and it wasn’t more serious.”
He also said that the thaw had brought the unpredictable combination of thick and thin ice, and urged dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead when near ponds and lakes.
He added: “This really outlines what we’ve been trying to tell people over the last few weeks.
“We’ve had posters up warning people about keeping their dogs on a leash but they haven’t taken notice.
“For the sake of the owner and the dog, you need to keep your dog on the lead.”
Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn added that dog owners should not risk their lives to attempt to save their pets.
He said: “We know that many dog owners would go to great lengths for their animals, but attempting a water rescue is extremely dangerous and likely to end in tragedy for the person rather than the pet.
“Never go in after your dog, no matter how desperate you might be for its safety. A dog is much more likely to make it out of the water than a person.
“Likewise, if your dog runs on to an iced pond, never chase after it. The ice may be able to hold the weight of an animal, but it’s much less likely to hold a human.
“The safest option is to keep your dog on a lead near water, but if the worst happens and it does end up in the water and in trouble, stay calm and call the emergency services or the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.”