New Forest Dog On The Forest Off The Lead

2023 AGM

2023 AGM

The 2023 Annual General Meeting of NFDOG was held in Brockenhurst Village Hall on 19 November. Some 20 members attended on a night when the weather was decidedly dodgy!

Chair Heather Gould reported the group was in good health and a lot of activity had taken place over the previous year, much of it working with dog professionals, but all directed at spreading the message about responsible ownership and walking.

The accounts are healthy. The current account stood at £1462.66 at the year end, paying for day-to-day activities. The research account, which is primarily aimed at research into CRGV/Alabama Rot working with the Bristol University Vets School, stood at £5072.78, having received donations of £644 in the last year. Finally, the reserve account is £59,584.53. This latter is held in case any serious issue arises such as paying legal bills if freedoms to walk in the New Forest (the Group’s core role) are threatened. The subscription remains £5.00 a year, as it has since NFDOG’s conception 21 years ago.

Heather thanked committee members for their hard work in the year, particularly Kate Hurcombe who runs the lost dog service, Tracey Wright and Sue who are secretary and membership secretary, and Sarah Morris, a new committee member who’s arranged attendance at shows this year. Heather said that due to the work load, and succession planning, she also wanted to appoint David Bennett as a Deputy Chair which was agreed by vote, though subject to a further discussion in the committee. Heather and Tracey were also formally re-elected after their four year terms in office.  

The membership currently, including family members, lies just short of 1,300, confirming NFDOG as the largest user group in the New Forest.  

David next spoke, rounding up the year’s events. These have often been driven by a semi-formal group of NFDOG, the Verderers, NFNPA, Forestry England, Wild New Forest and the RSPB. Quick results have included having the bird warning signs for sensitive areas standardised for different land owners, and the production of a child friendly poster about responsible walking and ownership used primarily for visitors and on all campsites owned by Camping in the New Forest (who kindly paid for its production).

A new gazebo, kindly bought out of a bequest from the late NFDOG President Pauline Ludlow has been in use, and NFDOG has attended a dozen fairs, ranging from the small such as Tiptoe and Fritham, to the New Forest Show. The display system has been falling apart through so much use, and after ten years there are good signs that local County Councillor Keith Mans is going to help with a grant to renew it.

The app has been a success and more than 550 downloads have contributed in part to the recovery of some 120 dogs. It’s also been enlarged to have topical information (such as car park closures, and ‘drift’ details) and dog first aid, as well as the articles which appear on the website, and exclusive member information. This is all down to the hard work of webmaster Andy Clayton, who supports NFDOG through his business, Triple W software.

The Ambassador scheme, supporting dog professionals who promote responsible ownership and talk to dog owners has been launched and had seven members – recently increased to 10 through the cycle of meetings. Each of these offers a discount to NFDOG members.

Heather finally read a short report about CRGV from pioneer vet Fiona MacDonald from Ringwood. The organism which causes CRGV was finally identified in 2012/22, and currently work is going on to sequence the DNA of the identified bacteria, and this in turn should lead to recommended treatment plans.

The meeting ended formally, and Professor Russell Wynn then gave a fascinating talk about the wild life of the New Forest. Russell co-runs Wild New Forest and he spoke passionately about both successes and failures, particularly avian caused by a variety of issues such as climate change, over grazing, and to a lesser degree poor dog walking. One key issue currently is to research the effect of dog treatments, such as working, and the effect they have on the forest particularly through dogs using rivers and ponds.

The meeting enjoyed a limited supply of wide, soft drinks and snacks, and ended after two hours.