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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 23:48 GMT 00:48 UK
Hawks grounded after pooch swoop
Bryant Park's piegeon population has been cut by half

Trained hawks used to keep nuisance pigeons away from a New York park have been grounded after one mistook a miniature dog for its lunch.

Galan, the Harris hawk, swooped down on a pet Chihuahua while on patrol in Bryant Park, near the city's Times Square.

His handler Thomas Cullen said the bird made an "honest mistake", but it led to the dog needing treatment for scratches and a minor puncture wound.

The programme - which has proved a hit with park goers for cutting the pigeon population by a half - has been shelved until a decision on its future is taken next week.

Mr Cullen, who runs the programme, said: "I believe the bird mistook [the dog] for a rat and pounced on it."

He proposed removing Galan from the five-hawk rotating patrol and take extra precautions with the others.

However, it may not be enough to persuade the city's Parks Department to reverse its call for the scheme to be stopped altogether.

"We place the safety of park users, including their pets, over any minor inconvenience that may be caused by pigeons," said spokeswoman Megan Sheekey.

But park goers are supportive of the scheme. "I don't think this should be done away with because of one misstep," said lawyer Ward Miller.

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