DOG-owners have been warned to take care of their animals after one pet had a very lucky escape at the weekend.
The Staffordshire bull terrier had to be rescued after plunging more than 30ft down cliffs just north of Souter lighthouse near Whitburn on Saturday afternoon.
Volunteers from Sunderland Coastguard helped rescue the dog after it ran over the cliff edge while chasing birds.
Coastguard spokesman Neil Mearns said owners exercising their pets off the leash too close to the cliff edge is a common problem, despite repeated warnings.
“In this case, the owner has learned the hard way as a result of this, but it could have been much worse,” he said. “The dog has been lucky and hasn’t suffered anything more than a minor injury to its mouth.
“We are always urging people to keep their pets on a lead close to the cliff, but even when we were there on Saturday, there were people letting their animals run around.
“It is a problem that has been going on for many years, but it just does not seem to be getting any better.
“People don’t heed the warnings or use their common sense. They could be lucky, like on Saturday, but quite often their pets can be badly injured or even killed.”
Mr Mearns believes dog owners forget their pets have a different line of sight from humans and cannot see the cliff edge.
“A dog’s line of sight is much lower than a human’s – they can be running right up to the cliff edge and just not realise it is there.”
The added worry for Coastguard volunteers is that owners whose pets fall over the cliff edge may be tempted to stage their own rescue attempts.
“If there is any incident involving the cliff edge, people must ring 999 and ask for the Coastguard, who will carry out any rescue,” said Mr Mearns.
“The cliffs are very, very dangerous.”