Dog owners urged to keep beloved pets off frozen water to prevent tragedies

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A skilled dog handler with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has teamed up with Park Rangers from Pentland Hills Regional Park to highlight the dangers of frozen water this winter as pet owners venture out for walks.

Jonathan Honeyman, a fire investigation officer who trains Phoenix the dog to work alongside him, is urging the public across Scotland to be aware of the risks of going onto ice whether it’s a river, pond, canal, or reservoir.

He said: “We don’t want your winter walk to end in tragedy so please avoid going near frozen water when you are out with loved ones and pets.

“While ice can look and feel solid, it can suddenly crack and cause a person or a dog to fall through and potentially become trapped under the ice.

“Pets should be kept on leads and owners should avoid throwing objects onto the ice for them to retrieve.

“If anyone does get into difficulty on the ice, do not attempt to rescue them. Dial 999 and ask for the fire and rescue service then wait for help to arrive.”

Pentland Hills Regional Park has a number of reservoirs with the area and frozen water safety is a particular cause of concern at this time of year when the outdoor temperature starts to drop below freezing.

Cllr Neil Gardiner, Pentland Hills Councillor, said: “The Pentland Hills Regional Park is fantastic to visit all year round and it is important that all those enjoying the beautiful environment are prepared before accessing the hills and know how to keep themselves and others safe, especially in winter. 

“Guidance is that the public to stick to paths and heed any warning signs on the Pentlands especially near the reservoirs. Also, a useful reminder is for everyone to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code in which dogs should always be under control, either on a lead or walking to heel.”

Corporate Affairs Officer for Scottish Water, said: “Scottish Water also urges people to be vigilant and take extra care around freezing reservoirs and other water bodies

“Reservoirs and lochs may look frozen but it’s impossible to tell how thick the ice is, so both you and your four-legged friends should admire them from afar.”

Animal welfare charity Scottish SPCA is also supporting our safety message.

Chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, said: “We receive lots of reports each year where people have tried to rescue their pet from a frozen lake or river, and often the consequences are tragic. Please keep dogs on the lead around waterways as they can be at risk of falling through ice.

“If your pet has fallen through ice then you should call the fire and rescue service and wait for assistance. Never go out onto the ice after an animal as, while the ice may be able to hold the weight of a dog, it’s unlikely to hold the weight of a human.”

Falling through ice can be potentially deadly.

The low temperature of the water can also bring on cold-water shock, which can cause breathing difficulties, blood vessels to close, the heart-rate to increase and lead to a heart attack.

If someone can’t climb out of the water, it is not advisable, as many people think to move about in the water to keep warm while waiting for help. Instead, they should conserve their energy by keeping as still as possible.

For more information on Cold Water Shock please visit


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