Police are warning dog owners to keep their pets on a tight rein after a deer fatally wounded in an attack had to be put down.
The owner of the dog responsible for the unfortunate incident in Richmond Park at around 09:00hrs on 1 October last year has been convicted of causing/permitting an animal they were in charge of to injure another animal in a Royal Park.
Franck Hiribarne, 44, from Kingston, was charged by postal requisition on 23 October 2020 to appear at Wimbledon Magistrates' Court on Friday, 15 January where he pleaded guilty and was handed a total fine of £602.
The offence was contrary to regulation 4(21) of the Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 and section 2 of the Parks Regulation (Amendment) Act 1926.
Dramatic footage captured on the camera of a cyclist passer-by - one of several who stopped in a bid to intervene - has been released in order to alert the public to the dangers that dogs can pose to deer in the Royal Parks.
The images show the Red Setter rushing up to the sitting deer and appear to bite it, before retreating slightly and barking repeatedly in a aggressive manner as the eye-witnesses who have rushed to the scene form a human barrier between the two animals.
These witnesses later described the dog as "relentless", attacking and biting the deer from behind, dragging her backwards, jumping up, and lunging at her, and continuously running around her attempting to get her.
The footage shows the deer then gets up and limps off slowly in a bid to get away from the threat it faces, but it is already suffering a broken leg after been hit by a car during the time it was chased by the dog.
Sadly, the deer was found shortly afterwards collapsed in the ferns and had to put down by a game keeper due to its significant injuries; a broken front leg, an open wound to its behind and part of its tail was also detached with an open wound.
Meanwhile, the witness obtained details from the dog's owner and flagged down a passing police car, while the owner of Alfie, who had rushed to catch up with his dog and get him back under control also went to the Royal Parks Office to inform them of the incident.
In a statement to police, Hiribarne explained that his habit after entering Richmond Park was to walk Alfie on a lead until finding a suitable open space away from the road and free from the deer for a radius of at least 200 metres.
He said that Alfie had been responding well to 'off lead' commands he was giving him as part of training, and had obeyed one to stay when they had encountered deer a short distance away earlier in their walk.
On their way back after reaching an open space that had no deer in sight he decided to let Alfie off the lead again for a time.
He recalled: "All of a sudden, I and Alfie came across a lone small deer sitting hidden in the long grass in an open area about 150 metres away from the road and both the deer and Alfie were startled by each other. The deer sprang up and started to run and Alfie got spooked and ran after the deer. I called Alfie back repeatedly and used my dog whistle too but Alfie was too distracted by the deer and continued to chase it and did not respond.
"I ran after them and by the time I caught up with them I saw the injured deer by the road side and some members of the public standing surrounding the deer keeping Alfie away from it who was hyper excited, barking and trying to lunge at it.
"I was genuinely shocked and sorry for what had happened and since then I have refrained completely from letting Alfie off leash in any park. I have also taken a special dog trainer specialised in gun dogs to control more accurately any of his hunting instincts. He has made great progress."
Police Sergeant Pete Sturgess, from the Met's Royal Parks Command Unit, said: “This incident highlights that even the most careful of dog owners may not see a deer until it is too late. Your dog may never have chased the deer before, but once is too many, and this deer paid with her life.
"If you do not know how your dog will react around the deer, or you know they will chase them, then please respect the wildlife by keeping them under control on a lead, or choose an outside space other than Richmond or Bushy Parks to walk off lead.”
Figures collated for the first time on dog versus deer incidents by the Royal Parks, the charity that looks after London's eight Royal Parks, indicates that the problem has significantly increased since the Covid-19 imposed lockdowns; it has led to a big increase in dog owners going to Bushy and Richmond - especially new users who might not be as familiar with best conduct.
Simon Richards, Park Manager for Richmond Park, said: “Sadly, this was the fourth deer that died over the last year as a result of dog chases in Bushy and Richmond Parks. We’ve had 58 incidents of dogs chasing deer reported to us since March 2020, and it’s completely unacceptable. It’s imperative that owners ensure their dogs are under control at all times.
“It’s illegal for a dog to chase deer in Richmond and Bushy Parks, and owners may face prosecution if caught. If you witness a dog chasing a deer, please phone the on-call police officers for Richmond and Bushy Parks via 07920 586546.”
On 30 December 2020, also at Wimbledon Magistrates' Court, David Reay, 69, from Kingston, pleaded guilty to allowing his dog to attack and kill a fallow deer in Richmond Park on 12 September 2020.
He was fined £135 and ordered to pay £350 compensation to Richmond Park as well as £34 victim surcharge costs and £85 costs to to the Crown Prosecution Service.