A man has been hit with a whopping fine after his dog killed a black swan in Dawlish, before he was chased away by 20 angry witnesses.
Ross Norman, 26, was prosecuted by Teignbridge District Council after the dog he was in charge of attacked and killed a swan at the Lawn in Dawlish.
The dog was not on a lead, contrary to the council byelaws that govern The Lawn.
Magistrates in Newton Abbot on Monday ordered Norman, whose address in court was given as C/O HMP Channings Wood, but who is originally from Dawlish, to pay the maximum penalty of £500, plus a victim surcharge of £50, and awarded the council full costs of £471.81.
The incident that took place in April 2018 saw a black swan die following an attack by a dog while she was trying to protect her cygnets.
The owner of the dog ran off after being confronted by a group of 20 passers-by who tried to separate the animals.
The male partner swan was also trying to get the dog off its mate.
The decision of the court was praised by councillors during Tuesday’s Executive meeting, where coincidentally, they were discussing introducing new controls around dogs that enable council officers to fine offenders £100 if they breach the eight controls.
Cllr Rosalind Prowse said: “The case of the man whose dog on the Lawn killed a black swan that was in court shows the need for these controls. I am delighted that the court gave him the maximum fine and we were awarded full costs as well.
“It shows that we need to make the decision today and we need to move forward with these new controls. It could be someone’s child that gets bitten next time.”
Dawlish Town Council had reported the incident to Teignbridge and the police, provided information for the prosecution including footage from their own CCTV system.
The black swans of Dawlish have been a draw for tourists for decades and the emblematic birds even feature on the town’s welcome sign.
The emblematic swans have been a major tourist attraction for the town in Devon for decades.
The swans, native to Australia, were introduced at the start of the 20th century by a resident who emigrated from New Zealand.
Andrew McKenzie, Dawlish Town Council’s town clerk, said: “As custodians of the nationally and internationally renowned waterfowl, including the famous Black Swans, Dawlish Town Council is delighted with the court result which underscores how seriously it seeks to protect the animals for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike.
“The byelaws covering The Lawn enable dog walkers to enjoy the open space and river walks with dogs on leads whilst simultaneously helping to protect the birds from dog attacks.
“Hopefully this successful prosecution will serve as a deterrent and help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”
Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Sylvia Russell, Teignbridge District Council’s executive portfolio holder for health and wellbeing which includes Environmental Protection, said: “We welcome the court’s decision to impose the maximum penalty. This was a very distressing incident for the many people who witnessed it.
“It was one that was wholly unnecessary and avoidable had the dog had been kept on a lead. These laws exist to protect some of our most treasured open spaces, allow people to enjoy them and keep nuisances to a minimum.
“Breaching a byelaw is a criminal offence and one we take seriously and we will continue to prosecute offenders when we have reliable evidence. We hope this sends a clear, strong message to the small minority thinking about flouting the law.”
A spokesman for the Teignmouth and Dawlish Neighbourhood Policing team added: “Back in April 2018 one of the famous black swans of Dawlish died following a vicious attack by a pet dog after the dog owner disobeyed the by-law to keep dogs on leads on The Lawn.
“The magistrates issued Norman the maximum penalty. This is a fantastic result to be awarded the maximum amount of fine and shows how serious the magistrates considered this matter to be. Thank you to all those who assisted in the prosecution.”
Teignbridge already number of byelaws in place including one in respect of dogs in pleasure grounds which covers The Lawn, Dawlish, Dawlish Warren, The Den, Teignmouth and Teignmouth Promenade.
The byelaw means that no person is allow to enter or remain in the pleasure grounds with a dog unless the dog is on a lead and is restrained from behaviour giving reasonable grounds for annoyance.
The new PSPO, which was unanimously agreed by the executive on Tuesday, means £100 fines can be imposed by council officers.
Watch black swan cygnets in the video below
The PSPO would contain eight controls. They are:
FOULING – making it an offence if a person in charge of a dog fails to pick up its faeces straight away.
MEANS TO PICK UP – making it an offence if a person in charge of a dog does not carry a bag or other means of clearing up after their dog at all times.
DOG EXCLUSION AREAS (EXCEPT BEACHES) – making it an offence for a person in charge of a dog, to let a dog be in dog ban area (e.g. Children’s play park).
SEASONAL DOG EXCLUSION AREAS (BEACHES) – an offence for a person in charge of a do between April 1 and September 30, to take the dog onto, or permit the dog to enter or to remain on, any beach designated as a dog ban area. The beaches are Dawlish Warren, Dawlish Town, Dawlish Coryton Cove, Teignmouth Town and Shaldon.
DOGS ON LEAD AREAS – an offence if a person in charge of a dog at any time does not keep the dog on a lead on land designated as a dog on lead area.
DOG(S) ON LEAD ON THE HIGHWAY – an offence if, at any time, a person in charge of a dog does not keep the dog on a lead, whilst on a road or footpaths adjacent to a road.
DOG(S) ON LEAD BY DIRECTION – an offence if at any time within a dog ban area, a person in charge of a dog does not comply with a direction given to him by an authorised officer of the council or police officer to put and keep the dog on a lead.
RESTRICITION ON THE NUMBER OF DOGS – restrict the number of dogs that can be walked by a single individual on or off the lead to four.