This is is the shocking scene which greeted an Ashdown Forest family early on Christmas morning.
A flock of eight rheas – flightless birds similar to ostriches – were savaged to death by dogs at the home of Colin and Pauline Burnett-Dick near Chuck Hatch.
Pauline said: “It was early on Christmas morning and I was woken up at about 2am by dogs barking. It had been a foul night.
“I went down to have a look and made this grisly discovery. They were scattered all around the paddock – they must have been hunted down one by one and horribly killed.”
Pauline explained the family lives next to the 500 acre wood – the famous ‘100 Aker Wood’ described in AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.
She said: “The dogs had probably disappeared into the wood.
“When I discovered what had happened, I rang the police. They sent their dog guy who was very helpful. I was terribly concerned – if the dogs could do that to my livestock, what could they do to my neighbour’s sheep? Once they’ve done something like this they could do it again.”
A police spokesman told her a neighbour reported one of his sheep had been badly bitten on the leg – apparently by a dog – at about the same time. What she finds hard to stomach is the fact the dogs must have returned home covered in blood and she pleads with any owner who found their dog in this condition to let her know.
“The birds were all horribly mutilated and although we’ve all heard about dog attacks, until you’ve actually seen the results for yourself you can’t imagine what it’s like.”
Sussex Police said the matter is under investigation.
Pauline reared four of the rheas herself, incubating eggs until they hatched, which makes the deaths an even harder blow to bear.
She said some owners simply fail to keep dogs under close control, but others are let loose at night and can cause terrible damage. Forest conservators continually urge residents and visitors to make sure they know where their dogs are at all times.
Colin Burnett-Dick made headlines in 2005 when he paid £34,000 for ventriloquist’s dummy, Archie Andrews – co-star with Peter Brough in the radio programme Educating Archie.