By Helen Le Caplain
A farmer has blasted ‘lazy and irresponsible’ dog owners after he was forced to put a three-month-old calf down after the beast chomped down on a used dog poo bag flung into the hedgerow.
Award-winning farmer and cattle breeder George Coles was baffled when the youngster dubbed ‘Calfie’ suddenly went downhill on Red Oak Farm earlier this year with no obvious symptoms.
The Simmental Cross’ health continued to deteriorate rapidly and at the end of June he had to be put to sleep. An autopsy confirmed the waste bag’s role in his death.
George is now forced to spend up to 18 hours a week patrolling his farmland in Brackley, Northamptonshire, and plucking used dog poo bags out of the hedgerows to prevent it happening again.
The stepdad of one is sharing a heartbreaking picture of Calfie next to the lethal injection syringe and also images of collected dog poo bags to urge owners to dispose of dog waste more responsibly.
George from Mixbury, Oxfordshire, said: “Why oh why pick it up and then leave it hanging on hedgerows and fences and not take it home?
“It’s not pleasant, but it’s every dog owner’s responsibility to pick it up and dispose of it properly. It’s just gormless behaviour to do this.
“If I could find whoever is doing this I would ram it down their throats.
“While most dog owners are very responsible I’ve seen my fair share of arrogant, ignorant idiots.
“Leaving poo in bags either tied to fences or thrown in the bottom of hedges is completely unacceptable.
“I now spend two and a half hours a day walking the hedgerows every morning to look for them, and pick up around three a week.”
The 46 year old went out to check on the animals in the morning on June 5 and noticed Calfie lying in a peculiar position in the eight-acre field he was grazing in.
Vets couldn’t put their finger on what could be causing his illness and placed the tiny calf on an IV drip and scanned his abdomen but didn’t find anything.
Three days later George soon became suspicious after discovering discarded waste bags in and around his land and mentioned it to the vet.
Sadly Calfie deteriorated rapidly and on June 20 had to be euthanised.
The post-mortem found a used dog poo bag in his rumen (stomach) which had blocked and effectively poisoned his insides.
George, who is also owner of golden labrador Peter, said: “He was such a young calf, just three months old, and he couldn’t cope with it.
“Fairly early on the morning he started to become ill I could see he was laid across the hedgerow and just didn’t look right at all.
“He was a perfectly healthy calf up until this point and it initially confused us all.
“He was put on an IV drip but he didn’t perk up. A couple of days later we scanned his abdomen, still nothing.
“It was only days after that when I found poo bags in the hedgerow did I suspect what could be the cause.”
George, who forked out £388 in treatment for the commercial calf, didn’t choose to put him to sleep sooner as on some days Calfie would appear to be on the mend.
George said: “One day he would act a lot better and suckle mum and then we’d see him chewing on a bit of straw but then he would decline rapidly. He was a little fighter.
“I would have put him down sooner but he kept rallying and we thought he would pull through but in the end he looked really bad.
“After two weeks of this we had to make the horrible decision to put him down, all because someone didn’t take their dog’s poo bag home.
“It caused a blockage and was rotting his insides. The cause was confirmed when we pulled it out of him.
“The costs to treat him were through the roof but we always give them a chance.
“When the autopsy confirmed it was a dog poo bag it convinced me to set up a campaign so that picking up dog poo on farmland is enforceable in the same way it is in other public places.
“The existing laws need to be made to apply the same as everywhere else.
“When I’ve approached people before, they’ve just quoted the law back to me and said they don’t have to pick the mess up. Something needs to change.
“We love our cattle, both commercial and pedigree and we don’t want any of them to suffer, we just want to offer them the best life.”
FACT BOX: WHAT IS THE LAW ON DOG FOULING? (Info from Dog Fouling Act 2016)
* The Dog Fouling Act of 2016 places responsibility on ‘the person in charge of the dog’ at the time of the misdemeanour.
* Dog fouling regulations apply in most public places but not on common land, agricultural land and woodland.
* Those with disabilities that restrict their sight or mobility are exempt, including pet owners that are registered as blind.
* Working animals, such as police or sheep dogs, are also unlikely to be fined if they poo while on duty.
* Anyone who fails to clear up after their dog can be issued with a fixed penalty notice of up to £100. If the case goes to court this could cost the owner or person in charge of the animal up to £1,000.