Such attacks have increased during the pandemic, according to authorities, due to lockdown-type measures. Greater numbers of people are visiting parks for exercise and socialising, and restrictions have fueled a rise in dog ownership and novice owners.
The incident took place on the morning of Oct. 1 in Richmond Park, where, as in all eight of London’s Royal Parks, it is illegal for dogs to chase the deer.
According to the police, the doe was hit by a car as it tried to fleet the dog, breaking its leg. It was later put down by a gamekeeper due to its injuries.
The dog owner, Franck Hiribarne, himself reported the incident to park authorities.
He pleaded guilty to causing/permitting an animal he was in charge of to injure another animal in a Royal Park.
Hiribarne said he normally let his dog, Alfie, off the lead after entering the park if there were no deer around for at least 200 metres (about 220 yards).
With no deer in sight as he returned, he let the Red Setter off the lead.
“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,” he said, according to the Met Police.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The Met police released video footage taken by a passing cyclist. A Red Setter can be seen in the footage running up to a sitting deer and appears to bite it before backing off a little. Other passersby then try to intervene.
A dog walker has pleaded guilty to a park regulation offence after his dog attacked a red deer in #RichmondPark on 01/10/2020. He appeared at Wimbledon Magistrates court on 15/01/21 and was fined a total of £602. Some viewers may find the footage distressing pic.twitter.com/r1SQGKnF1S
— Royal Parks Police (@MPSRoyal_Parks) January 18, 2021
According to the police, the witnesses described the dog as “relentless”, biting the deer from behind and dragging it backwards.
There are around 630 deer in Richmond Park, where they have roamed alongside people since 1637.
Park authorities frequently warn visitors not to get too close to the deer in the autumn—not to protect the deer but to protect themselves. During rutting season, the stags can become aggressive and attack people.
In 2018, a young girl was taken to the hospital after being gored by a stag in one of London’s royal parks when the family group strayed too close to take pictures.
Police say that during the pandemic the number of dog attacks in the eight Royal Parks has increased with many more dog walkers and novice owners.
“Sadly, this was the fourth deer that died over the last year as a result of dog chases in Bushy and Richmond Parks,” Simon Richards, park manager for Richmond Park said. “We’ve had 58 incidents of dogs chasing deer reported to us since March 2020, and it’s completely unacceptable.”