Animal lovers and Londoners are paying tribute to a much-loved seal who died following a ferocious dog attack.
The young pinniped had been christened Freddie Mercury – in honour of the late Queen singer – by walkers in Barnes, west London, where he was often spotted splashing on the shores of the River Thames.
On Sunday afternoon he was fiercely bitten by the dog before being rescued by passers-by including a vet.
Freddie was taken to South Essex Wildlife Hospital where he was found to have a fractured flipper and a dislocated joint.
After his prognosis was found to be “extremely poor”, the hospital said in a statement: “We believe the only ethical and fair option we have is to end his suffering.” He was, therefore, euthanised.
Twitter users have since shared their grief at the loss of the beloved animal.
One posted a picture of the photogenic pup, writing: “RIP Freddie Mercury the Seal.
“I photographed her [sic] here at Teddington Lock the day before fish hook incident. The rare bit of joy in these troubled times taken away from us by a irresponsible dog owner.”
Another shared a video of Freddie making his way up the shore, writing: “Oh no... Freddie Mercury the seal (not sure it needed anthropomorphising) has died after being attacked by a dog. Our meeting was brief, but the poor creature made a lasting impression.”
Another commented: “We had a seal swim near our part of the river lately. Freddie Mercury. He was then rescued but kept coming back cos he just loved the River Thames! Today a dog off a lead murdered him. My best friend lost her puppy the same way. It actually breaks my heart. Control your dogs.“
And another tweeted: “Absolutely gutted that Freddie Mercury the seal has been put down after being attacked by a dog yesterday at his recent home of the slip of St Paul’s School in Barnes.
“He brightened up almost all of my daily walks these last few weeks, and made so many people so happy.”
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said in a statement: “We are all absolutely gutted to hear about the extent of the injuries Freddie suffered, and highlights yet again the serious problems that can arise when humans and dogs encounter wild animals.
“We hope that his story will go a long way to helping educate people to look up and follow the appropriate guidelines for how to behave respectfully around wild animals and not cause disturbance or worse to them.”
The hospital said “sadly” Freddie was not the only seal it had treated, adding: “Please folks do not go near seals and always, always, keep dogs on leads and under control.”
Common or harbour seals can often be seen in and along the river Thames, with the Zoological Society of London’s Thames Marine Mammal Survey reporting 117 sightings of the mammal this year.