23 December 2023, by Abi Carter
Dog owners in the Netherlands are being warned to keep their pets away from seal pups resting on beaches, after four seal pups were attacked by dogs in the space of just three days.
Four seal pups attacked by dogs in three days
Four seal pups – all of them less than three weeks old – have been attacked by dogs on the beaches of Kijkduin and Scheveningen in recent days. One of the animals is in a serious condition. According to the Animal Ambulance in The Hague, the pups sustained several bite wounds after coming into contact with dogs that were being walked on the beach.
John Buijs, an employee at the Animal Ambulance, told RTL nieuws that it’s not a question of your dog being aggressive or dangerous or not, it’s simply the fact that “dogs and seals don’t mix.” He explained that one of the incidents involved a golden retriever, a breed typically thought of as a cute, cuddly dog popular with families.
He explained that dogs are interested in the seals and so approach them to have a sniff. This frightens the pups, who then lash out in self-defence. “Seals are wild predators, they can bite,” Buijs said. “The dog responds to that. This creates a fight.” Pups especially are not yet mobile, and so cannot easily flee.
Buijs added that, apart from the attacks causing harm to the pups, they could also result in health problems for the dog as well. “A seal bite is full of bacteria,” he said. “They can transmit all kinds of diseases, such as lungworm. So even as an owner you really shouldn’t want your dog to be bitten.”
What to do if you see a seal pup on a beach in the Netherlands
Incidents such as these are common during two periods every year – in July and August when harbour seal pups are born, and in December and January when grey seal pups are born. The Animal Ambulance has issued an appeal to owners to put their dogs on a lead if they see a seal and to always maintain a distance of at least 30 metres from the pup. Being approached causes the seal pup a lot of stress.
Animal Ambulance is also hoping to spread awareness about what the seal pup is doing on the beach. Often people see them on their own and assume they have been abandoned, and try to move them back into the sea. In fact, seal pups are not yet strong swimmers, and so their mothers typically leave them on beaches to rest while they go out to feed or keep watch.
If the seal looks fat and healthy, its mother is probably close by and will not return if there are humans or dogs in the vicinity. Move away and monitor the pup for 24 hours. If you are still concerned, contact the local Animal Ambulance, rather than trying to help the pup yourself.