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CDB urges KC to adopt antipodean approach

THE COUNCIL OF Docked Breeds has urged the Kennel Club to take a stronger stance in favour of retaining docking for all traditionally docked breeds. This follows on from the recent announcement that the new Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw appears to be in favour of exempting some breeds from the docking ban outlined in the Government’s proposed Animal Welfare Bill.

The CDB’s Graham Downing told OUR DOGS: "You might care to take a look at the New Zealand Kennel Club’s website feature on docking. You might then care to compare the attitude of the NZKC towards docking with that of our own KC, which claims to support freedom of choice."

According to the NZKC’s website: ‘The New Zealand Kennel Club supports the docking of dogs’ tails only in those breeds that are traditionally docked. There is nothing in New Zealand Kennel Club rules or regulations to prohibit a dog in these breeds being exhibited with an entire tail.

The New Zealand Kennel Club believes that a puppy that has been docked using correct procedures at an age of less than five days is not subject to any cruelty. The New Zealand Kennel Club opposes legislation that prohibits the docking of dogs' tails and supports the freedom of choice.’

The New Zealand Government is proposing a Bill to ban docking, but the NZKC have taken a strong stand against any such outright ban. Their website goes into great detail to justify the continuation of docking. One segment relating to the facts of docking states:

‘1. 57 of the 184 breeds recognised by the New Zealand Kennel Club may be affected by the proposed Bill.
‘2. 33.8% of all puppies registered annually may be affected by the proposed Bill.
‘3. 85% of the members of the New Zealand Kennel Club support the choice of the breeder whether to dock or not.
‘4. There is no compulsion on breeders to dock puppies to conform to requirements of breed standards or to be exhibited at NZKC shows. Some standards (but by no means all of the traditionally docked breeds) call for tails to be "docked"; "short" or "short or docked" but it is not any more of a requirement than total conformity to every other aspect of the standard, which no dog does. There are currently many traditionally docked breeds of dogs being exhibited with tails – a lot of them have CHAMPION in front of their name! It is the choice of the exhibitor.

‘5. Purebred dogs have been docked for sometimes hundreds of years. There are pictures of Hungarian Viszlas dating back to the 1100’s - they have docked tails, so it is NOT a "fashion".
‘6. Purebred dogs are NOT docked for "cosmetic" reasons. Different breeds are docked for different reasons ranging from hygiene to prevention of cruel damage.
‘7. The practice of tail docking when performed correctly is NOT cruel. In 1999 in New Zealand, when the current Animal Welfare Act was approved, Hansard clearly shows that the Select Committee hearing submissions did not accept that there was sufficient published evidence to support a ban or to make it a significant surgical procedure on the basis of pain alone. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
‘8. Tail docking does NOT inhibit the swimming, balance or manoeuvrability of the dog. A great many of the gundog breeds prized for water retrieving are docked breeds. There are many docked Greyhounds in the UK that are winning races and indeed there is even one in New Zealand. Docked dogs perform in Agility and Obedience events equally as successfully as undocked dogs and in fact some owners having both, believe the docked dogs to be superior.

‘9. The NZVA agrees with the NZKC that there is no evidence that docked dogs are unable to communicate with or are aggressive towards other dogs.
‘10. There is NO documented evidence supporting the NZVA’s policy claims of tail docking causing necrosis, neuromata, self-mutilation, and faecal urinary incontinence.
‘11. There IS documented evidence of horrific injuries to traditionally docked dogs. In Sweden in 1989, 191 undocked dogs were studied. In two years an horrendous 51% of these dogs suffered tail injuries.
‘12. Veterinary Surgeons are not trained to dock puppies. Most Vets have no experience of the banding method of docking.

‘13. There is NO recognised scientific evidence that tail docking is painful to the puppy under 5 days old. Unlike most other animals, puppies are born without sight or hearing their nervous system is still developing. At birth the puppy is unable to use its back legs and moves by using the front legs only for about a week and until its nerve impulses are developed.
‘14. Conversely there IS recognised electrophysiological studies proving that puppies do not possess totally functional C-fibres (chronaxie values) of the peripheral nerves (which conduct the sensation of pain to the brain) until they are approximately 10 days old.
‘15. Tail Docking is not banned in UK. The procedure is restricted to Vets.

‘16. Tail Docking is not banned in Australia. Legislation which will come into force on 1 April 2004 will restrict the procedure to vets only and individual State Governments have introduced/are introducing their own restrictions. eg.The most draconian legislation is in Queensland where from 1/10/2003 it has been illegal to dock for other than therapeutic reasons. But in Western Australia it is permissible to dock for prophylactic reasons.

‘17. HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Patron of the RSPCA and our own Head of State who owns and breeds Pembroke Corgis (a docked breed), is on record as having stated:

‘As dog breeders we have been given a charter to maintain the appearance of the breeds as handed down by our forebears through the various breed standards.’

Meanwhile, in the UK, the CDB applaud the NZKC’s approach to tail docking, whilst offering a cautious welcome to DEFRA’s softening of their stance on a tail docking ban.

Ginette Elliott the CDB’s Secretary told OUR DOGS:

"We have moved forward considerably from the time when the Government was proposing a ban, a total ban, and nothing but a ban. Ben Bradshaw has at last brought a refreshing element of realism into DEFRA thinking, with his recognition that there are some very good reasons for tail docking.

"However, in order to get itself out of the conundrum of its own making, DEFRA still appears to be stuck in the rut of exempting certain breeds from a proposed future ban. Not only does this approach fail to address the real issue - that of animal welfare - but it also has a horrible whiff of the DDA about it. One really might have thought that the Government would by now have realised the dangers of breed-specific legislation.

"The country sports organisations, which are directly affected by this proposed ban, have all argued against a list of 'exempt' breeds, and it is good to see that the Kennel Club has at last recognised that a breed-specific approach to exemptions from any future tail docking ban could ask more questions than it answers. We are of course delighted that the BSAVA has arrived at the same conclusion, though from a different route.

"The answer really is quite simple. Docking is, and will remain, a veterinary procedure. Let the Government give the vet the ability to make a decision that is consistent with the dog's future welfare interests."

A spokesman for the KC at Clarges Street commented: "The docking of dogs' tails is an operation that may now only legally be performed by a veterinary surgeon. In view of the fact that docking is lawful the decision concerning docking is one that rests with breeders and their veterinary advisers, with the proviso that only dogs which have had their tails docked at the age which the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons considers to be acceptable may be entered at Kennel Club licensed events, unless the owner obtains permission of the KC following the shortening of a tail at a later age due, for instance, to damage.

"The Kennel Club allows customarily docked breeds to be shown with or without their tails being docked and the Breed Standards issued by The Kennel Club indicate this. All breed standards now contain a clause to describe the appearance of the docked and the undocked tail in order to enable a judge to assess the tail of an undocked dog of a customarily docked breed.

"Having read the NZ KC information, both KCs support the case for choice in docking, and DEFRA continue to ask for scientific evidence regarding whether docking is in fact cruel to the dog. As far as I am aware, submissions have been made and we await to see the first draft of the Animal Welfare Bill to see what DEFRA have said regarding the issue.

"We shall continue to state the case for an exemption for working gundogs should docking be banned, and continue to liaise with both the CDB and the Anti-docking alliance on this issue."

The NZKC’s website docking feature may be found at: http://www.nzkc.org.nz/taildocking.html