A FATHER is calling for tougher measures after a stranger’s dog strayed into his home and killed one of the family’s pet guinea pigs.
Animal lover Paul Allen, 50, from Chiltern Park in Thornbury has had four pet guinea pigs – Mia, Cookie, Honey and Snowy – since 2009.
On Sunday morning Mia was killed after an unleashed dog entered the family garden and mauled her just after 11.30am.
Mr Allen said his pets regularly roam around in his front garden, which is enclosed. They are kept in a three-storey cage with a narrow entrance which allows them to “come and go as they please”.
He said he knew the guinea pigs were hungry and he left for a few moments to get food for them.
He said: “When they are hungry the guinea pigs come up to me. I pick grass for them from a patch just across from my house. I knew wouldn’t be gone more than a few moments so I didn’t shut the gate.”
In the few brief seconds that Mr Allen was gone a dog belonging to a female walker ran through the gate.
“On the way back I heard a woman shouting at a dog which was taking no notice of her at all. I could see it had gone into my garden and had a white object in its mouth. I thought it was a toy until the woman said it was a guinea pig.”
The black and white springer spaniel was holding Mia in its mouth.
“Mia was the biggest but the tamest of all our guinea pigs,” Mr Allen said.
“My family are very upset because they grew up with them. They love our pets. My son Joe was devastated. He is 12 years old and as the youngest he is more into pets.
“My other son Daniel is in university and we haven’t told him yet because he is doing exams at the moment and we don’t want to upset him.
“Had I shut the gate it would have been a barrier to stop the dog getting in but I should be able to leave my gate open without fearing a dog is going to go into my property and kill my animals.
“If the dog was on a leash it wouldn’t have caused any damage.”
Mr Allen said it was not the first time a strange dog has entered his property. He said over half a dozen dogs have got into his garden over the past year.
“People are not being responsible. They do not have their dogs on leads. They just let them go where they want to go. I see it all the time on Streamside Walk. It’s a public area and dogs should really be kept on leads. Not just for public safety reasons but also to keep dog fouling under control. There have been cases of kids being knocked down by dogs jumping them in the area and also stepping in dog mess because it is everywhere.
“It’s a serious issue in the community,” he said.
Mr Allen has decided not prosecute the owner of the dog that killed his pet.
Instead he is calling on Thornbury Town Council to implement stricter repercussions for dog owners who leave their dogs wander off the leash and those who fail to pick up their dog’s mess.
“There are signs up everywhere saying owners will be fined if they don’t clean up after their dog but no one has ever been fined for it.
“If I park my car on a double yellow line in the centre of town you can be sure there will be a parking fine issued by the traffic warden on it when I get back.
“Thornbury’s dog warden should do the same thing.”
Vice chairman of Thornbury Town Council Clive Parksinson said he would bring the incident and the underlying issues to the attention of South Gloucestershire Council’s street care team.
He said: “I express my regret that this has happened.
“We will be having a meeting to update on people on the Green Dog Walkers Scheme in the coming weeks and a representative from South Gloucestershire Council’s street care team will be in attendance. I will inform them of what has happened. For years this has been an issue.”
A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said there were two dog wardens operating in the region who can issue fixed penalty notices (FPN) charged at £50 for dog fouling offences in a public place.
In the last year, however, eight FPNs were issued in the district but none of these were in Thornbury.
The council said there was no requirement for dogs to be kept on a lead.
“We would rather educate people about responsible dog ownership, but we do have the power to prosecute if necessary,” said the spokesperson.