Reports of farm animals near Swadlincote aborting their young due to parasites found in dog faeces, have led to pleas to owners clear up after their pets.
Dog owners who walk their pets in rural area near livestock are now being challenged to help reduce the number of farm animals aborting their young by urging them to pick up after their pets.
Farmers across North West Leicestershire have linked up to support the campaign which forms part of the North West Leicestershire District Council's successful Dog Watch initiative. It comes as farmers 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 mess – leaving farmers' livelihoods in danger.
The council has come up with several ways to educate dog walkers about the importance of cleaning up 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 can be 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 among 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 is backing the campaign and appealing for dog owners to take heed.
He said: "I think this is 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, deputy leader and portfolio holder for community services at the 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."
More details on the Dog Watch scheme is available by visiting www.nwleics.gov.uk/dogs