Lucky to be alive . . . A little penguin recovers after a dog attack last week. It was taken to the Oamaru Veterinary Centre for treatment and is now in the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony rehabilitation facility. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Dog owners are being urged to keep their pets under control at the Oamaru Harbour after a penguin was attacked last week.

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony staff found a little penguin with fresh puncture wounds at the harbour on Friday afternoon, after it was reported to be in distress by a member of the public.

The penguin was taken to the Oamaru Veterinary Centre for treatment and required stitches, pain relief and a course of antibiotics, Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony science and environmental manager Dr Philippa Agnew said.

“This little penguin was very lucky to survive because often a dog bite will be fatal,” Dr Agnew said.

“He will need to stay in our rehabilitation facility at least a week, until he has finished his antibiotics, but we will likely hold on to him until he has successfully completed his moult, which may take a bit longer.”

The penguin was going through his annual moult, a particularly vulnerable period for the birds as their old feathers fall out and new feathers grow underneath.

Little penguins can not escape from an attack into the water when they are moulting, because their new feathers are not yet waterproof.

“When they’re cornered in a burrow or rocks like that with no escape, they are completely defenceless against dogs,” Dr Agnew said.

Last week’s attack has prompted a reminder for dog owners to keep their pets on leads in the harbour area.

“The Waitaki district rules are that dogs must be on a lead from sunrise to sunset and are prohibited outside of these hours in the harbour area.”

Tips for dog owners

  • Check the local council website for rules on dog walking restrictions.
  • Members of the public are urged to contact the Department of Conservation 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68) to report injured native wildlife or instances of animal attack.
  • Notify the Waitaki District Council (03 433 0300) of any dogs off-lead in the harbour area, especially if they are harassing wildlife.
  • Report sightings of injured wildlife to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony (03 433 1195) or Doc.

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