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New Forest Dog Owners Group points to foxes over neospora calf deaths

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DOG owners have defended themselves against claims linking their animals’ mess in the New Forest to the deaths of unborn calves, instead pointing the finger at foxes.

The New Forest Dog Owners Group (NFDOG) has highlighted research which it said backed its claim that foxes were more likely to be the source of neospora, a parasite which last year caused the abortion of 18 roaming cows from commoner Tom Gould’s farm near Bransgore.

As reported in the A&T, concerns have since been raised by the farmer, the vet that treated the herd, and the verderers that unless more dog owners pick up after their pets, commoners’ livestock could be in danger.

Red fox (54519259)
Red fox (54519259)

However, NFDOG has spoken out to defend its 1,200 members, claiming they are “under attack” without enough evidence to pin the blame on dogs.

It said research showed that neopsora was contracted from raw meat, rather than processed dog food, making foxes’ waste a much more likely source of the bug in the New Forest.

NFDOG chair Heather Gould said: “In fact, research shows that far more likely as a source are other canids, foxes.

“They live on an exclusively scavenged raw meat diet and are prevalent across the New Forest. Indeed, their numbers are increasing, according to the authorities.

“Aborted animals in the Forest, including the calves cited in recent articles, will be a food source, causing a cycle of disease.”

She added: “NFDOG believes that the full story should be told, and in this case, the fox is a more likely culprit, with an exclusive raw meat diet, scavenged as it roams across the Forest.”

It pointed to a number of US and UK research papers online that confirmed foxes carry neospora, although none of them definitively stated they were more likely to infect cows than dogs.

One Defra study of British dairy cows said it “indicates that farmers should be advised to minimise contact between dogs and cattle, to prevent access of dogs to calving membranes, and to prevent dog fouling of cattle feed”.

But it added the key measure to tackling the infection would be identifying positive cows and removing them from the herd.

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