A popular seal nicknamed Freddie which became a firm favourite with Londoners near Hammersmith Bridge has had to be put down after being savagely attacked by a dog.
The young seal – named after Queen frontman and pop legend Freddie Mercury because of his crowd-pleasing antics – was mauled by a brown cross-bred dog on Saturday in west London.
A photographer, Duncan Phillips, 55, who got distressing pictures of the incident, told the Mail Online: "It was quite a vicious attack. The dog just wouldn't let go despite repeated attempts by members of the public to separate the two animals."
Onlookers, including a vet, rushed to release the seal from the dog's clamped jaws. It eventually let go after being shouted at by its owner who then left the scene.
The vet who helped in the incident was reportedly bitten three times by the terrified seal and a good Samaritan cyclist was also headbutted by distressed Freddie as they waited for help to arrive.
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) rushed medics to treat Freddie's wounds – which included a bite to his right flipper – and he was taken to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital in Tilbury.
However, vets say X-rays revealed Freddie suffered a broken bone, a dislocation and damage to his joints, ligaments and nerves.
A BDMLR statement said: "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 was that he needed to be euthanised for his welfare."
It went on: "We would be unable to release a seal back into the wild with one flipper, if amputation was an option, and we have a firm policy on not putting animals into captivity. The seal's welfare must be put first and foremost."
BDMLR's CEO Alan Knight said Freddie was the victim of a "ferocious attack" and said the team was devastated to hear about the seal's passing.
He added: "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."
Freddie was originally rescued as a new-born pup in the Netherlands last year and released back into the wild, but subsequently had to be helped in France and twice in the UK before the savage attack.
A traffic cone near his Hammersmith Bridge bathing spot had a piece of paper on it just the day before the attack with the words: "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 below the bottom of the ramp."
For more information on what to do if you find a seal visit https://bdmlr.org.uk/what-to-do-if.
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