A MAN who unleashed his dog to carry out an "appalling" attack on swans and cygnets in a village park "should be sent to prison", a leading animals expert says.

William Sheen ordered his Lurcher to try and injure the birds at Riverside Park, Fordingbridge, while simultaneously using a type of slingshot to hurt the swans.

The 21-year-old encouraged his dog to enter the pond and chase the birds.

But in an instance when the dog didn't, Sheen pulled it up by its lead so that it was hanging in the air, with its back legs kicking the water below whilst making choking noises in a distressed state.

Sheen - an avid hunter of wild animals including pheasants - was found guilty of three counts of attempting to intentionally kill, injury or take a wild bird and allegations of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog.

After being handed a 12-month community order following his trial at Southampton Magistrates’ Court, Dorothy Beeson MBE, founder of The Swan Sanctuary, a charity which helps nurse injured swans back to full health, said Sheen’s "absolutely horrendous" crimes deserved a stiffer sentence.

She added: "He should have been put inside for six-months because people like him never get the punishment the crime deserves.

"We hear a lot about these types of crimes, especially in parks, and more needs to be done to find spaces where dogs can be let off a lead. "It’s common sense.

"It’s similar to if the dogs attacked a small child – there is always a risk. Sheen needs to be aware of his actions and be sensible about dogs."

The incidents took place between July 5 and 8 at the park on Ringwood Road.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said the birds were “visibly distressed” during their ordeal but were unharmed during the attack.

Mark Gammon, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "These were appalling attacks that caused much distress to the animals involved and the members of the public who witnessed them.

"This case serves as a warning to others that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated and anyone caught carrying out offences of this nature will be robustly prosecuted and punished."

As part of the community order, Sheen, of Queens Garden, Fordingbridge, was ordered to carry out 260 hours unpaid work, as well as paying £620 in court costs and a £85 victim surcharge.

He has also been banned from Fordingbridge Park and the Avon river in the town.

Sheen was disqualified from owning or controlling any dog for two years and a deprivation order was made in respect of his two dogs to have them removed from his care.