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Working dogs: MP's to consider tail docking ban

[Friday 10 March 2006]

As the Animal Welfare Bill makes its way through the Parliamentary process one of the country's leading shooting organisations has welcomed a Government amendment that would exempt working dogs from a ban on tail docking.

Working dogs such as Springer Spaniels are a common sight on the moorland of the Yorkshire Dales as the Grouse shooting season gets underway every August. Many have their tails docked soon after birth to prevent an injury whilst working in confined spaces or in thick undergrowth according to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).

MP's consider amendment to exempt working dogs from tail docking ban
MP's consider amendment to exempt working dogs
from tail docking ban
Photo: BASC

Commenting on the amendment, BASC spokesman, Simon Clarke, said: "This exemption will prevent cosmetic docking, but will allow vets the discretion to dock a working dog's tail if they believe it to be in the animal's best interest.

"This amendment would be a positive step for animal welfare.

"It will end the overwhelming majority of tail docking but will allow it to be carried out by vets for working dogs likely to become injured."

It was initially intended that the Animal Welfare Bill would prohibit 'prophylactic' or preventative tail docking as well as that carried out purely for cosmetic reasons.

During a debate in the House of Commons this week the Governments' stance changed and Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State at DEFRA, put forward the new amendment.

It is understood that Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Animal Welfare, and Jim Knight, Rural affairs Minister, will join Mrs Becket in voting in favour of the exemption.

MP's will have their say and vote on the amendment during a Parliamentary debate next Tuesday (14th March), but one animal welfare charity is insisting that all tail docking, including for working dogs, should become illegal.

The RSPCA points to what it calls inconsistencies in the docking of tails. English Setters, the organisation says, have similar long coats and tails to Spaniels, yet only the latter breed has its tail docked.

"There is no evidence that some dogs have more sensitive tails or are more prone to damaging their tails than others," said the RSPCA's Chief Veterinary Adviser, Tim Miles.

Adding: "This simple fact demolishes the argument that some 'working' breeds, such as spaniels and pointers, should still have their tails amputated as puppies, when the accepted ethical view is that other breeds' tails should no longer be docked."

However MP's vote the practice of cosmetically docking a dogs' tail will be outlawed and the Bill will also prohibit the showing of any dog with a docked tail.

BASC points to an emerging cross party consensus and is urging MP's to back the exemption come Tuesday. Simon Clarke said: "The exemption has support from the Government and the Conservatives' rural affairs spokesman.

"We urge all MPs to consider the issue very carefully before Tuesday's vote, and to support the exemption.

"MPs will have a free vote and hold the future well being of thousands of working dogs in their hands."

What do you think?

Should working dogs have their tail docked or is it now an outdated practice?

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Feedback received for this article:

  • No docking for all breeds!

    Any working dog breeder can then have his litter docked? What if the new owner only uses the dog as a pet? Will people then only buy a working dog breed because it doesn't get docked?

    In Germany many breeders stopped breeding their breed because they couldn't dock any more! So they couldn't have loved the breed for the breed itself.

  • Michelle Perkins

  • I have owned and showed Boxers for over 26 years and have had puppies tails docked. I feel my freedom of choice is being taken away. Surely there are double standards here.

    Veterinary Surgeons are still happy to remove healthy testicles and wombs from animals where the owner chose to have this done purely to stop the bitch coming into seaon and creating a mess in the house and males to stop them 'chasing' bitches and being aggresive to other dogs.

    Also Veterinary surgeons make a lot of money from these procedures. I have worked in a Veterinary practice and have seen the trauma these animals suffer when coming out of a general anathestic (which in itself is dangerous).

    The docking of a puppies tail at 3 days old is a very simple procedure that takes a couple of minutes, the pup is then back suckling from its mother with no side effects. Also Veterinary surgeons argue it is to stop unwanted puppies.

    I have kept both entire males and females together in a normal family home (with no kenneling facilities) and have never had an unwanted litter. If Veterinary Surgeons agree to stop removing healthy wombs and testicles from animals where there are no medical issues then I would be very happy to stop having puppies docked.

    I also feel that the amount of time, effort and money being spent on this issue would be better spent on more pressing issues like the NHS, Policing etc.

  • Mrs. S.Whiting
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