Lakeland police search for owners of dog that killed city's prized swan

Lakeland police are looking for the owners of a dog that killed one of the city's prized swans. Witnesses say the dog may have been encouraged to attack the bird. 

According to police, on Dec. 7, a man and woman were walking a gray pit bull along the shore of Lake Morton. A woman watching from her front porch said the dog pulled on its leash toward the swan. She said the man then walked the dog toward the nesting bird "as to antagonize both animals," according to the police report.

"The dog went a little crazy and somehow twisted and got out from under the leash and jumped on the bird," said Sgt. Gary Gross of the Lakeland Police Department.

Witnesses said the man and woman were yelling at the dog to "drop," but the dog continued to shake the swan back and forth in its mouth until the bird died. The man and woman then gathered the dog and ran off, the woman yelling, "Oh my God, we're going to jail!" One witness said he tried to stop the couple but they split up.

"It's absolutely horrible," said Steve Platt who works for the City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation. "It's just unbelievable that something like this would happen to one of our animals." 

His duties include caring for the swans that are a symbol of the city (in fact, the city of Lakeland's official logo includes an outline of a swan). The birds are treated like royalty in Lakeland and rightfully so: they are descendents of a pair of swans given to the city by Queen Elizabeth in 1957. Each bird is valued at $1500. Sgt. Gross said the dog owner will be held liable for repaying that cost. The man may also face criminal mischief charges, if the witness account of him antagonizing the dog is true, said Gross.

Police are looking for a white man and a Hispanic woman in their 20s. Their dog is a gray pit bull with a blue nose. Police believe they live near Lake Morton. If you have any information that could lead to an arrest, call Crimestoppers.