MYSTERY SURROUNDS the death of a pregnant cocker spaniel found in a Hampshire river last week with a 10kg dumbbell weight tied around her neck. The horrific story was carried by many national newspapers after the Southampton Daily Echo first reported how the dogs body was spotted by a couple out walking their own dog by the River Test at Nursling, near Southampton.
The dog walkers alerted river bailiff Martin Donovan,who rushed to the spot to pull the spaniel from the 5ft deep water before any children saw her.
However, subsequent post-mortem has revealed the dog did not drown because her lungs had no water in them - meaning she was dead before she was thrown into the river.
Animal welfare experts are continuing their investigations into the events leading up to the corpse being dumped in the river near Nursling. The prevailing view is that the dogs owner did not want to be landed with a litter of puppies, but simply could not be bothered to take the dog to an animal rescue centre.
RSPCA inspector Alan Barnes said:"We're appalled by this cruelty. We'd urge anyone with information to come forward to catch whoever carried out this despicable act." Insp Barnes added: "This was a totally inhumane way to treat an animal and if we are able to establish who did it we will not hesitate to prosecute. We need to find out whether the dog died of natural causes or whether there were suspicious circumstances beforehand.
"There are a huge number of possible causes of death and we are currently unable to say if this dog has suffered or not, but dumping a body like this is totally undignified and is an irresponsible way to dispose of a family pet."
Meanwhile, calls continued to pour into the Southampton Daily Echo and the RSPCA from disgusted members of the public wanting to contribute to a reward fund to catch whoever is responsible.
For local dog owner Troy Cobb, 34, the chilling picture brought back painful memories of when his epileptic boxer dog accidentally drowned in a lake.
He said the fact that the dog was dead before it was dumped in the river did not change anything.
He said: "It makes no difference to me. I'd still like to pledge some money to the reward fund. It still deserves a life ban on animals. You've got to be a sick-minded person to do something like that."
Anyone with any information about the incident is being urged to contact the RSPCA on 0870 555 5999 or the police on 0845 045 4545.