A DOG has died after being spooked by a low-flying hot air balloon at Frensham Little Pond.

Zeus, an eight-year-old husky-cross staffy, was rescued by Neil Smiley five years ago.

On October 24, at around 4pm, a hot air balloon flew at a “low level” over Frensham causing Zeus to “bolt”, according to Neil, 41.

Zeus went missing for four days until he was finally found by Neil’s friend in the River Wey, near Pierrepont Farm.

He said Zeus “couldn’t get out” or back up the bank, adding that he “wasn’t sure how he got there”.

When Zeus was found he had gangrene in his legs, was cold and needed warming up.

After a poor prognosis by vets, Zeus was put down six days after the balloon fright. Neil said there “wasn’t much of a decision” to make because of his injuries.

The self-employed builder said one of the hardest things was “finding him and losing him again”.

Neil said: “It was very tough after he spent four days on his own. It’s destroyed me.

“I’m really annoyed. I can’t do anything for him but want to get someone to realise the consequences of their actions and get something done about it.

“It has destroyed me – and my mum is absolutely distraught. Everytime I see her she bursts into tears."

And he added: “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.”

Neil went on to thank everyone who helped and is now trying to highlight the importance of “tracker collars” to dog owners. He wants to achieve “something positive” from the incident, which was “still quite raw”.

A spokesman for the British Balloon and Airship Club said: “In the first instance, and on a personal note, I put on record my sincere condolences to Mr Smiley. It is obvious to me Zeus was a very special dog and for Zeus to have been lost in such tragic circumstances is awful.

“I fully appreciate the effect this incident has had on Mr Smiley, his family, and other members of the community who knew Zeus.

“I have been in contact with the pilot and he too expresses his concern over what has transpired. In turn, I have also been in touch with pilots who do frequent the area and advised them accordingly.

“There is no restriction with regard to the airspace above Frensham Little Pond at the height at which balloons operate. The area is classified as uncontrolled airspace and, as such, aircraft – balloons included – are permitted to fly over providing that they are not at a height which compromise aircraft approaching to land or taking off from either Gatwick or Heathrow.”