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Docking exemption remains for working dogs

[Thursday 25 May 2006]

THE TAIL DOCKING exemption for working dogs looks likely to remain unchanged as the Animal Welfare Bill passes one of its final hurdles - a debate in the House of Lords.

Lords uphold tail docking exemption
Lords uphold tail docking exemption

Working dogs were excluded from a general ban on cosmetic docking in England and Wales after a free vote in the Commons in March.

The Government had originally intended to ban prophylactic or preventative docking as well as that carried out for cosmetic reasons, but - after concerns were raised by a number of countryside groups that tails could be easily injured on moorland or in thick undergrowth - tabled a number of technical amendments to the Bill which were agreed during debate.

The amendments re-enforce that only terriers, pointers, spaniels and their cross-breeds can be docked for prophylactic reasons.

Despite concerns from Lord Soulsby, the majority of Peers were satisfied with the exemption tabled in the House of Commons.

During the debate, Lord Soulsby said: "The crux of the issue is that certain working dogs may supposedly damage their tails when working in closed environments, in brushwood, in thickets or in other confined spaces if they are not docked.

"However, the evidence for that is not strong. In countries where docking has been banned there are no reports of significant increases in tail damage to working dogs."

The issue may be debated again at the Report stage of the Bill in late June or early July, but it seems certain that the working dog exemption will remain intact.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has lobbied MPs and Peers over the last few months to make the case for the exemption. Thousands of BASC members also wrote to and emailed MPs and Peers.

BASC's Director of Communications, Christopher Graffius, said: "The exemption for working dogs is an important victory for animal welfare and I am pleased that the Peers debating this issue came to the same conclusion. "

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