Insight & Analysis

Dogs might fly…

Published: Aug 2019

No visitor to a British seaside town is safe from the average British seagull. Whether they’re swooping in on chips, stealing ice creams or ransacking overflowing bins. One seagull in Paignton, Devon, recently took off with larger prey – a four-year-old chihuahua.

The miniature mutt called Gizmo was happily playing in a back garden when a seagull suddenly swooped down, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, and carried him off in its beak.

“My partner was putting the washing out at the time and he suddenly saw it dive down,” said Gizmo’s owner Rebecca Hill. “It carried Gizmo a fair way as we couldn’t see him anymore. I have no idea if he was dropped or where he is now.”

Immediately after the savage attack, Ms Hill took to Facebook to plead for Gizmo’s safe return. He was described as a small, brown dog, weighing approximately 4.4lb (2kg). Unfortunately, she had to take the post down after it went viral.

She received thousands of sick taunts from online trolls – from those saying she made it all up, to one who claimed to have actually barbecued Gizmo.

Responding to claims that the story was fabricated, ornithologist Peter Rock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that seagulls were indeed capable of picking up small animals. Mr Rock, from the University of Bristol, said: “If you have a very tiny little dog, I suggest you don’t let it run around in your back garden as it may well become a meal.”

However, a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “This must be extremely upsetting for the dog’s owner. Fortunately, these types of incidents are very rare and not typical gull behaviour.”

One thing’s for sure, true or otherwise, it’s fowl play.

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