Since 2007, puppies in Scotland have been protected from having their tails cut off. However last year, the Scottish Government announced plans to reintroduce tail-docking for working dogs in Scotland.
We believe the tail-docking ban has been a great success and urged the Scottish Parliament not to bring back this cruel procedure.
However on 21st June 2017, MSPs voted 86 to 29 in favour of weakening the tail-docking ban in Scotland. The decision went against public opinion and animal welfare and veterinary organisations. Click here to read our blog with all the lowdown on the vote, the reaction and what’s next.
Here is the background on our campaign –
Whether you’re a dog owner or not, you’ll be familiar with the sight of dogs happily running around the park with their tails wagging in the air. Dogs have tails for a reason, which is why the Scottish Government’s proposal has been criticised almost universally by veterinary organisations  and charities [s]. This is a huge step backwards for animal welfare in Scotland, and we urge the Scottish Government not to proceed with the proposed plans which could lead to hundreds of dogs suffering unnecessary and painful procedures every year.
The new regulations will be discussed in the Scottish Parliamen’s Environment Committeet in June, and this may lead to a vote. We have to make sure that every MSP understands why they should not vote in favour of this cruel and outdated practice.
Scotland led the way in the UK when it became the only country to ban tail-docking for all puppies in 2007. This was a result of strong campaigning by OneKind (then known as Advocates for Animals) and others. However, due to lobbying by gamekeepers and the shooting industry, the Scottish Government has put forward proposals which would allow working dog breeds to have their tails removed once again.
The procedure of docking tails is not a pleasant one. It involves cutting or crushing of skin, muscles, and up to seven pairs of nerves, bones and cartilage. It’s also done without any pain relief, so there’s no denying that puppies undergoing this procedure will experience acute pain. The intention behind tail-docking of puppies is to prevent tail injuries in adult dogs. However, to spare just one adult dog a tail injury leading to amputation, over 300 puppies would have to undergo tail-docking shortly after birth. In addition, adult dogs that have their tails amputated do so under a general anaesthetic and would also be given pain relief.
Many dogs that have their tails cut off will suffer lifelong behavioural problems. There’s also evidence which suggests that limiting the docking to one-third of the tail, as proposed under the new legalisation, would not significantly reduce the risk of suffering to the animal.
Why are puppies’ tails docked?
Before the ban was introduced in Scotland, there were two main reasons why puppies had their tails cut off.
- Cosmetic intervention.In the past, many dog breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers and Boxers had their tails docked to give them an unnatural appearance required by different breed standards. It’s unlikely that docking on these grounds will ever been permitted in Scotland again.
- Prevent injuriesTail-docking was previously carried out on dogs used in field sports, such as Spaniels, Terriers and Pointers, to prevent them from injuring their tails while working. Working dogs can pick up injuries to all parts of their bodies, therefore if the tail is docked then the dog cannot injure it. This option was widely believed to be the lesser of two evils.
Section 20 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 banned all mutilations of animals other than certain exempted procedures. It also became an offence to take a dog from Scotland for the sole purpose of having its tail docked. This move was seen as a huge step forward for animal welfare in Scotland and has since protected thousands of dogs from having to undergo this unnecessary and painful procedure. In England and Wales, the law bans the tail-docking of dogs, expect for “certified” working dogs who are not more than five days old, and prohibits the exhibiting of tail-dock dogs in dog shows.
Proposed changes In 2016, the Scottish Government consulted on proposals to change the law which would allow vets in Scotland to dock the tails of Spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies “if they believe on the evidence presented to them that they are likely to be used for working in future and that the pain of docking is outweighed by the possible avoidance of more serious injuries later in life”.
The changes proposed in the consultation were:
- To permit the docking, by up to a maximum of one third in length, of the tails of working Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers before they are not more than five days old.
- To require such tail-docking to be carried out by veterinary surgeons and only where: – they have been provided with sufficient evidence that the dogs will be used for working purposes in the future; and – in their professional judgment the pain of docking is outweighed by the possible avoidance of more serious injuries in later life.
In October 2016, the Scottish Government announced that the law would be changed to implement these proposals. The new Regulations published on 12 May will add the tail docking of Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers to the list of exempted procedures. The Scottish Parliament will need to examine and approve the Regulations before they can become law.
What OneKind did?
OneKind believe that Scotland’s tail-docking ban has been a great success and reintroducing docking to prevent injuries in adult dogs cannot be justified on animal welfare grounds. We want puppies to have tails, and we called on the Scottish Parliament to support the existing ban.
The Scottish Parliament committee considering the new Regulations sought views from the public. OneKind sent in our new report A Step Back in Time which makes the case against tail-docking young puppies. We also encouraged people to take action and email the Committee, asking them to protect young puppies from unnecessary pain and stress by keeping the tail-docking ban in Scotland.
However on 21st June 2017, MSPs voted 86 to 29 in favour of weakening the tail-docking ban in Scotland. You can read the response from OneKind Director Harry Huyton here.