Bella, the chihuahua puppy killed by seagulls
A woman whose chihuahua puppy was killed by a flock of aggressive seagulls has warned other dog owners to be vigilant for bird attacks.

Nikki Wayne said her pet Bella had been made a virtual prisoner in her home after being harassed by "brazen" gulls which gathered on her roof.

The gulls were so menacing that Ms Wayne made sure her dog never went outside without her protection.

But the birds struck when Ms Wayne left a door slightly ajar while she was in the shower and Bella managed to nudge her way out.

She was killed before she could get back into the house.

Ms Wayne, a mother of five who moved to Honiton, Devon, from Canada a year ago, described Bella as a 'really playful puppy' who would always want to roam around the garden.

She said she earlier asked advice from her vet about the danger from the birds, after seeing how they perched on her roof and peered into the garden at Bella.

She said: "I called my vets and they said I should make sure I go out with her every moment she went outside in my back yard."

Even when she accompanied Bella into the garden, she was surprised by how aggressive the birds could be.

"I got really worried about it," she said. "They started to swoop down to my face level, brushing me."

One day when Nikki was taking a shower the outer door was left ajar, and Bella managed to push her way outside to play.

The 57-year-old said she would never forget the incident and has issued warnings to other dog owners in the area.

In 2002, an 80-year-old former ambulance driver died of a heart attack after he was attacked by gulls at his home.

Wilfred Roby disturbed a nest of chicks as he tried to clean bird droppings from the roof of his garage in Anglesey, North Wales.

The parent birds, joined by other gulls, swooped on Mr Roby knocking him off the wall where he was standing. They continued to peck at him as he lay unconscious.

He suffered a suspected heart attack and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tony Whitehead, West Country spokesman for the RSPB, said the latest case was only the second he could recall where a dog had been killed by gulls.

He said: "It's obviously no consolation to the owners, but this is a rare occurrence. This isn't by any means typical behaviour of gulls."

The birds may have been defending their territory, he said. "Around this time of year they tend to get very territorial as they are nesting."

Another possibility is that they were hunting. He said: "Gulls are great scavengers. They will eat anything."

While gulls are notorious in seaside towns for swooping down on tourists and stealing chips, ice creams and snacks, he said such behaviour was nothing to do with aggression.