Rural dog walkers in North West Leicestershire are being challenged to help reduce the number of farm animals aborting their young.
Farmers across the district have linked up to support the campaign which forms part of the North West Leicestershire District Council’s (NWLDC) successful Dog Watch initiative. It comes as they face the heartache and financial distress of losing unborn livestock due to dog fouling on their land.
Cattle and sheep can abort their young after coming into contact with Neospora – a parasite found in dog faeces – leaving farmers’ livelihoods in danger.
NWLDC is introducing a number of ways to educate dog walkers about the importance of cleaning up dog muck at all times, even in the most rural countryside.
Patrols are being increased in rural areas, trail cameras are being installed and new posters are being displayed in popular dog walking areas in an effort to raise awareness, and catch the culprits.
It is hoped the scheme will help change the behaviour of dog owners and support farmers in protecting their livestock.
Neospora can remain present in grass, water and contaminated feed for months after a dog fouls, presenting a serious threat to livestock. One symptom is for the animals to abort their young.
Phil Sherratt, owns a farm in Donisthorpe and has seen the impact of Neospora first hand. He said: “Unfortunately we had a spate of abortions amongst the cattle, where they would lose their calves when around seven to eight months pregnant.
“We had blood tests done to try to establish why this was happened and Neospora was to blame.
“My message to dog walkers would be please pick up your dog’s mess – don’t think that because you are in a rural area it doesn’t matter.”
Robert Pope is a Moira farmer and he too is backing NWLDC’s campaign and appealing for dog owners to take heed.
He said: “I think this a good scheme that is helping people to understand this issue that farmers are facing.
“We have dog walkers that go to the trouble of picking up the muck in a bag, but then they throw it into hedges, and they think that is ok.
“We don’t mind owners walking their dogs at all – there are lots of public footpaths that we’re happy to see used. Please do come with your dogs but keep them on a lead and pick up their mess.”
Councillor Alison Smith MBE, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Community Services at North West Leicestershire District Council, said: “We all have a responsibility look after each other and our local environment.
“There is absolutely no objection to dog owners walking their dogs in rural areas, but they have to be responsible. I really feel for the farmers – we’ve heard the impact this can have and it is so preventable.
“We have a beautiful district which is there for us all to enjoy. If you’re a dog walker please keep your dog on a lead, pick up mess and dispose of it correctly.”
For more information on the Dog Watch scheme, or to report instances of dog fouling, please visit www.nwleics.gov.uk/dogs