A HORRIFIED dog owner was forced to shoot his labrador after it was mauled by a grey seal.

Matthew Will was shooting ducks when his pet, called Fly, was pulled under the water as he tried to fetch a dead bird near a seal colony at Newburgh, Aberdeenshire.

Mr Will, 21, ran into the sea in a bid to save his dog.

He said: "There was a sudden and terrific thrashing and howling in the water.

"I shone my torch towards where Fly had gone in to bring out the duck.

"This huge seal, more than twice the size of the dog, was flinging Fly around and pulling him under the water.

"I was horrified. The seal was enormous."

Mr Will, of Inverugie, Peterhead, said his dog was "horribly injured".

It had both its hind legs and ribcage crushed and left eye torn out.

He added: "He was pouring with blood and in spasms of agony."

Mr Will said there was no option but to shoot his companion and end its suffering after the attack, at around 7.30pm last Friday.

He said he wanted to warn other dog owners of the danger of the seals

Audrey Forbes-Clarke, Ythan fishery manager and Udny Trust factor, said the Ythan Estuary now had a population of hundreds of seals and she had personally placed signs warning dog owners of the risk.

She claimed vandals had pulled down all the warnings in recent weeks.

Ms Forbes-Clarke said: "Early in July, I had signs made reading 'Beware – seals may attack dogs in water – danger' and then put them around the area.

"They lasted about a week before most were torn down and vanished."

Ms Forbes-Clarke also claimed there had been another seal attack at Newburgh this year.

She said this incident led to a dog receiving a course of anti-biotics from vets. She said: "Seals are very vicious animals and becoming a plague locally."

Ms Forbes-Clarke said the beach area and estuary were popular with dog walkers and considered a safe place to let pets off the leash.

However, environmentalist Bob Davis, of Ardallie, Ellon, said attacks by seals were rare. He said: "Seals are fish-eaters, and the attack on the dog may have been a defensive response."

A spokeswoman for Scottish Natural Heritage said: "We are very sorry to hear about Fly. Such attacks by seals are very unusual but, sadly, not unique. Like any wild animal, seals can react if they feel threatened.

"The Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University monitors grey seals regularly and has reported an increase in grey seals in this area.

"Under the Marine Scot- land Act any control of seals requires a licence from Marine Scotland."