Goose found with 4ft dog chain around his neck is rescued from canal in Middleton

Date published: 22 March 2024

A goose found with a dog lead deliberately placed around his neck escaped serious injury and has been returned to the wild after he was rescued by the RSPCA.

Two officers from the charity’s water rescue team caught the bird using an inflatable boat after he was spotted in difficulty on the Rochdale Canal at Middleton on Monday (18 March).

The goose was dragging about four feet (1.2 metres) of dog chain behind him in the water, which was attached tightly around the base of his neck by a self-tightening nylon collar.

It’s believed the lead had been deliberately put on the bird after he’d been caught in an attempt to take him for a walk along the canal.

Described as an ‘irresponsible, cruel and foolhardy thing to do,’ the weight of the chain had left the goose unable to swim or fly property and he was tiring in the water when the RSPCA team arrived.

Animal rescue officer Stephen Wickham who carried out the rescue with his colleague Mark Buggie, said: “When we got the call we were initially told the goose had become tangled up in something but when we arrived we could see it was actually a long piece of dog chain he was dragging along in the water behind him.

“He used what little energy he had left to swim away from us but we managed to block his access using the raft at a lock gate a little further downstream and get him out of the water. We found two dog leads had been tied together and the collar around his neck was self-tightening. If he’d caught it on a branch or a piece of debris in the water he could have been fatally strangled. 


The bird was struggling to swim when he was caught by specialist RSPCA officers
The bird was struggling to swim when he was caught by specialist RSPCA officers


“We got the chain off and gave him a good check over for injuries and luckily couldn’t find any. I’ve rescued countless water birds over the years but I’ve never seen anything like this before. We’ve no idea why anyone would want to catch a goose and put a dog lead on it - we can only guess those responsible may have been trying to take the bird for a walk or attempting to inflict harm on it in some way.

“It was a reckless and unkind thing to do and could easily have resulted in serious injury or death.”

The Canada goose was released in situ under licence from Natural England. Without one it is illegal to return them to the wild as they are an invasive species.

All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take them except under licence. The maximum penalty, if found guilty, is six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

There is more information about what to do if you find a sick or injured wild animal on the RSPCA’s website.

This year the RSPCA celebrates its 200th birthday. To mark this special anniversary the animal welfare charity wants to inspire one million people to join their movement to improve animals' lives. To find out how you can get involved visit


The bird was struggling to swim when he was caught by specialist RSPCA officers


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