A pensioner's relaxed cycle along the lakefront turned red when the dog she was walking killed a baby swan - and now she's warning other dog owners to be careful and know the rules.

Elizabeth Dooley, 69, moved to Rotorua six months ago from Nelson. She was biking on Hatupatu Dr near the lakefront when she briefly got off and let the dog she was walking off the leash.

"A second later she killed a fluffy, yellow cygnet [baby swan]," Ms Dooley said.

"There was a wild scream from a Scottish tourist on holiday. I went around the corner and the cygnet was definitely dead. It was awful."

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Ms Dooley was horrified the dog would do such a thing, and said she didn't realise dogs were prohibited from the area.

She was stopped by a dog control officer, and fined for failing to keep the dog under control, and for allowing the dog to be in a prohibited area.

"My struggle is, I've got these fines, and now one person knows. But it needs broadcasting. Many people need to know. I wouldn't have ever done it deliberately or tried to get away with it."

Ms Dooley said she entirely took responsibility for the incident, but said she didn't see any signs or wasn't aware of the restrictions.

She contacted the Rotorua Daily Post, despite feeling sheepish, to make sure others were informed where they could and couldn't have dogs around the city to avoid such a situation happening again.

Rotorua Lakes Council compliance manager, Neven Hill, said owning a dog was a big responsibility, and taking the time to know and understand the rules was part of that.

"A key rule for people to be aware of when it comes to exercising their dogs is that they must be on a leash in public places, except where being off a leash is allowed. There are designated areas throughout the city where this is allowed," Mr Hill said.

Pamphlets and information about responsibilities, prohibited areas and designated exercise areas - where dogs can be off-leash - are available on the council website, or in hard copy at the council's main office. There was also signage at various locations.

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The number of fines issued by the council for failing to comply with the bylaw have increased both of the last two years, from 32 in 2014 to 139 last year.

"Dog control laws are in place to protect people and other animals so we take it seriously when they are breached, although we prefer to educate rather than prosecute," Mr Hill said.

"In this particular case, because of the seriousness of the incident, the killing of a protected bird, an infringement was appropriate."

Ms Dooley said she hoped speaking out would help avoid any more tragic situations, and hopefully, save a cygnet's life.