Dog walkers using Greenham Common have been issued with a stark warning after a dog died a day after swallowing food pellets left out for cattle.
Local resident Simon Wilson was out walking his two dogs, Paddy and Max, on the common on April 20 when both swallowed concentrated sugar beet pellets.
The pellets, which are commonly used by cattle grazers, had been left out by a farmer to feed cows.
Both dogs – who are brothers from the same litter – fell ill and Paddy died the following day at a local veterinary practice.
Senior land manager at Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, Alex Cruickshank, said: “This is obviously devastating for the dog’s owner.
“The staff at the wildlife trust, which looks after the common on behalf of West Berkshire Council, are shocked and saddened by this tragedy.
“I am working with the farmers who are responsible for the cattle on the common to ensure that this cannot happen again.
“I am also warning dog owners to be vigilant and to try to not let their dogs eat anything suspicious on the common.
“I understand how difficult it is for dog walkers to stop their dogs from eating anything on the common, so I am trying to compel farmers not to use this type of feed.
“The effects of the pellet are reduced by rain.”
BBOWT added that since it took on the management of the common in January 2014, this was the first such incident in which a dog had died from ingesting food pellets.
Spokesperson Wendy Tobitt said: “Alex Cruichshank is this week contacting all the graziers, the owners of the cattle grazing on the common, to compel them to stop feeding these pellets to the cattle.
“The wildlife trust already asks – through notices and leaflets – for dog owners to ensure they keep close control of their dogs while walking on the common, and we will continue to reinforce this request via social media.”
Chris Tufnell, the chairman of the Greenham and Crookham Commons Commission, which oversees the management of the common and who is also a vet, asked farmers for an assurance that dry sugar beet pellets will no longer be used.
One farmer who owns cattle on Greenham Common, Chris Austin, said he was now in discussion with fellow graziers to ensure that this type of feed will not be used again on the common.
He said: “It is extremely regrettable, isn’t it? As a dog lover myself, I would be upset if it happened to one of my dogs just by doing something as simple as walking it.
“We have never had anything happen like this before in all the time I have been involved in the common. It’s a very unfortunate one-off.”
He added that the use of the pellets by graziers was common, but that the potential dangers on any non-ruminants ingesting them was clearly labelled on each bag of feed.
He said: “We want to see that all of us who graze on the common shouldn’t use sugar beet pellets, partly in light of this incident.
“But it’s fairly well understood that it isn’t safe, and we will make sure between us that it’s not used.”