Freddie the seal who was savagely attacked by a dog on the banks of the Thames has been put down by vets who said it was ‘the only ethical and fair option’.
The animal, who was named after Freddie Mercury because of his crowd-pleasing antics, has been entertaining riverside walkers near Hammersmith Bridge in Barnes, West London, since he arrived up stream on the river last month.
But distressing pictures showed the young pup being mauled by a brown cross-breed at around 12.45pm on Sunday.
Onlookers including a passing vet rushed over to release the dog’s clamped jaws and stayed with the injured seal until emergency services arrived.
Photographer Duncan Phillips, 55, who was shooting images of the seal when it was attacked on the slipway, told MyLondon: ‘It was quite a vicious attack. The dog just wouldn’t let go.
‘It wouldn’t let go despite repeated attempts by members of the public to separate the animals.’
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) sent medics to treat its severe wounds before taking it to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital (SEWH) in Tilbury by boat with help from the Port of London Authority and London Fire Brigade.
But vets said in an update on Monday: ‘Ourselves and the experts at British divers marine life rescue have consulted several specialist marine and orthopedic vets and as we strongly suspected having taken X-rays this morning the prognosis is extremely poor.
‘Freddie’s flipper is fractured and the joint dislocated. Seals do not take anaesthetic well as they have a dive reflex and don’t breathe.
‘We suspect the infection is spreading and with the other bite wounds to his body he is very miserable. At this stage we believe the only ethical and fair option we have is to end his suffering.’
BDMLR then confirmed they had taken the difficult decision to euthanise the seal after consultations with marine experts.
Freddie Mercury, a seal who has been living near Hammersmith Bridge, in west London, was left with severe injuries after a dog off its lead attacked the young pup
Witnesses described the attack as ‘savage’ and said the dog would not let go despite of repeated attempts by passers-by
Four onlookers, including a vet, repeatedly tried to pry the dog’s jaw off the young seal but it refused, leaving severe wounds
The onlookers who had stopped to help held the seal in place until the emergency services could get there. Young Freddie was left with severe wounds and had to be taken to South Essex Wildlife Hospital with the help of the London Fire Brigade
Vets from South Essex Wildlife Hospital updated concerned fans on Facebook on Monday evening, saying they had to ‘end his suffering’
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue said they took the difficult decision to euthanise Freddie after consultations with marine experts
The animal doctors shared a photo of Freddie’s X-ray after he fractured his flipper and disjointed his joint, while an infection also spread
The animal, who was named after Freddie Mercury because of his crowd-pleasing antics, has been entertaining riverside walkers near Hammersmith Bridge in Barnes
Freddie was treated at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital where he was taken after the traumatic event on Sunday
The BDMLR said in a statement: ‘Unfortunately, after an X-ray this afternoon, our worst fears were confirmed, and the seal not only sustained a broken bone, but also a dislocation, damage to his joint, ligaments and nerves that made it impossible to treat and return him to the wild.
‘We contacted a number of marine mammal veterinarians in the UK and the Netherlands, including an orthopaedic surgeon, and sadly based on their experiences the decision is that he needed to be euthanised for his welfare.
‘We would be unable to release a seal back into the wild with one flipper, if amputation was an option, as we have a firm policy on not putting animals into captivity, and the seal’s welfare must be put first and foremost.’
Alan Knight OBE, the organisation’s CEO, said: ‘Freddie was a wild seal and after the ferocious attack on Sunday he suffered a serious broken and dislocated flipper. We contacted one of the UK’s leading orthopaedic surgeons, and he said that unfortunately the only option was to euthanise the seal.’
The vet who helped in the incident was reportedly bitten three times by the scared seal while trying to rescue him and a male cyclist who also stopped to help was ‘headbutted’ by the seal as they tried to hold him in place until he could get treatment.
A charity spokesman said in the wake of the attack: ‘At around 12.45pm today, on Sunday 21st March, a young resident common seal, in the Hammersmith area of the River Thames, was attacked by a dog leaving it with severe wounds and needing urgent vet treatment.
‘The out of control dog was recalled by the owner who then left the scene, but thankfully a quick thinking passer who saw the attack was able to catch the seal and hold onto it so help could be found.
‘Our rescue hotline coordinator called out local Thames BDMLR medics and with the assistance of a local vet, we were able to source a cage and contain the seal safely.’
The veterinary team move injured Freddie from the dog cage to a more suitable carrier before he is transported to hospital
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue sent medics before taking it to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital in Tilbury by boat
Freddie was carefully manoeuvred into a dog cage until help arrived and they could take him away in a more suitable carrier
Freddie, who was first rescued as a new-born in the Netherlands last year, was left with a nasty wound on his right flipper
Freddie had originally been rescued as a new-born last year in the Netherlands but he was rescued again in France and now twice in the UK
A warning piece of paper tied to a traffic cone at his favourite sunbathing hotspot reads: ‘Stop! My name is Freddie Mercury. I have been rescued multiple times but I would like to stay here.
‘I am healthy – but was almost attacked by a dog yesterday. It scared me. Please no dogs or people beyond top of ramp.’
Animal lovers who were appalled by the attack have taken to social media to criticise the dog’s owner.
One has said: ‘I hope this owner is dragged into court. Sick to death of seeing these horrendous attacks. Stop making excuses for these dogs and irresponsible owners. Thankful for those who helped.’
A wounded Freddie Mercury awaits treatment and transport to the veterinary hospital after being attacked by a dog
Another added: ‘It’s the fault of the dog owners that have no control over their animals. Unfortunately It’s in most dogs nature to give chase, as most think it’s a great game until gets out of hand.
‘Farmers have the right to shoot dogs worrying sheep or other livestock on their land.
‘I’ve seen so many dogs go after horses which is not only dangerous to horse and rider but dog could have it’s brains kicked out.
‘Again it’s irresponsible owners who either cant be bothered or too lazy to train their dogs.’
One man said: ‘The owner needs to be brought before the courts and fined. Then made to pay for Freddies veterinary bills and rehabilitation.’
Others suggested the owner should make a contribution to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital’s charity to help cover the cost of the treatment.
One said: ‘I hope Freddie makes a quick and full recovery. If you cant trust your dog or it has no recall keep it on a leash.
‘I really hope the owner makes a contribution towards Freddie’s treatment and keeps her dog firmly on its lead in future.’