Hampstead Heath dog tragedy leads to calls for tighter dog walking rules

A grieving owner whose pedigree pet died after running away from a professional dog walker on Hampstead Heath has called for tighter regulations.

Sera Mendelson’s beloved dog Bella, a small Pomeranian worth �1,000, was on her first trip out with a dog walker last Wednesday afternoon (September 14) when she was charged by what is believed to be a Great Dane.

The terrified pooch fled.

But Mrs Mendelson claims she was not told of Bella’s disappearance until 5pm, around five hours after she first went missing.

Dog walkers and passers-by helped the frantic owner comb the Heath looking for her cherished pet, but were unable to find her.

Bella was found badly injured the next day after being run over near Kenwood car park. She later died of complications.

Mrs Mendelson said: “Eight dogs are too many for one walker because in a pack dogs behaviour can change. One person just cannot control them. I would feel more comfortable if they had smaller groups and had at least half of them on lead.”

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The distraught owner, who lives with her husband and daughter in Willesden, added: “My whole family has been left absolutely devastated. She was my baby and now she has gone.

“What most upset me is that the walker didn’t give me an opportunity to look for my own dog until it was too late.

“I am confident that if I had gone to the heath straight away and called her name she would have come out for me. But she was scared, ran into the thicket and didn’t come out.”

After Bella’s disappearance, she searched the Heath and pinned missing posters to every entrance.

She said the help she was given by dog owners and residents living near the Heath restored her “faith in humanity”.

A spokesman from City of London Corporation, which runs the Heath, said it has applied for powers which would allow the public body to implement dog control orders.

The measures could restrict the number of dogs a person can bring onto the Heath. Consultation will be carried out before any change is made.

He said: “This tragic event highlights the concerns that the Corporation has across all its open spaces about commercial dog walkers.”

However, Tony Ghilchik, of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said restrictions should not be placed on dog numbers.

He said: “What matters is whether the dog is under control or not. If you look at the swans that have been attacked, this has not been done by dogs in large groups, but those that have not been controlled by their owner.”