New Forest Dog On The Forest Off The Lead

Dog owners exonerated in dead cow tragedy


Dogs and owners were blamed last year when a New Forest farmer had 19 cattle abort due to a disease called Neospora. It was reported that the disease was picked up as they grazed on common land at Wilverley, with dog poo being the source. The story subsequently made front page headlines on the basis this ‘threatened farming’, and hostile statements were made in a variety of places including the Verderers Court.

NFDOG’s response was more considered as we talked to DEFRA, Bristol Vets School, and the Association of Pet Food Manufacturers. All said it was most unlikely that dogs and poo had caused this on the open forest – they said the most common cause was farm dogs eating infected and untreated raw meat from farms. This did not get reported with anything like the same vigour, if at all.

Subsequently, the Verderers commissioned the University of Surrey to do an independent local study. This has been co-funded and supported by Forestry England and the New Forest Dog Owners Group. Nine sites were sampled including Wilverley, and 200 samples in total taken for analysis. It has now reported back. 


Lord Manner’s has confirmed at the Verderers Court that not a single sample in the study revealed Neospora. Neoprora has not been found in the New Forest which clarifies that dogs were not to blame for this tragic event. 

Lord Manners added that further research needs to be carried out to find where the farmer’s cattle did catch this tragic disease. But the basic fact, and the blame laid at dog owners’ feet, wasn’t as widely and dramatically reported at the time.  NFDOG hope this will be further reported on, to provide reassurance.  

“Last year’s loss to the farmer was, as Lord Manners said in the Verderers Court, a tragedy,” says Heather Gould, the Chair of the New Forest Dog Owners Group. “But the reported cause was incorrect, as NFDOG said at the time. This is now supported by an independent, scientific survey, carried out across the New Forest. It’s frustrating that for a year incorrect facts have proliferated, often through the media, despite our efforts and understanding of the truth.” 


“Irresponsible owners who don’t pick up after their dogs need to be re-educated. This horrible habit of needs to be stopped. But it’s equally important that we use facts. We should be honest, and the scare stories last year were harmful to dog owners generally. As we said at the time based on the evidence of professionals, the alleged cause was untruthful. This is now supported by this independent, local, and scientific survey.” 


“There are dangers in dog poo – such as Toxicara. In common with any other UK study, that has been found in the New Forest samples. It’s why owners should all pick up after their dogs and bin it, in addition to the simple reason it’s disgusting to leave it on the ground, or in bags hanging on trees. But the threat to farmers, and the fear of Neospora which could divide different communities of interest, is now effectively lifted and we thank Lord Manners and the Verderers both for the work they’ve carried out and the public comments and confirmation.”