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RSPCA canvas vets for docking ban support

THE RSPCA has come under fire from the Council of Docked Breeds for what it claims is an underhanded way of securing support from veterinary surgeons for a total docking ban under the Animal Welfare Bill.

A letter from Tim Miles, the RSPCA’s Chief Veterinary Advisor, dated October 25th – just over a week after the AWB was published – was sent out to vets to drum up support for the RSPCA’s plans to put pressure on MPs to vote for an amendment to the AWB and secure a total ban on tail docking.

Mr Miles letter asks the recipient of the letter to "write a statement supporting the RSPCA’s ban on tail docking". The letter reads:

‘I am writing to ask you to support the RSPCA in its efforts to lobby the Government to ban tail docking of dogs for cosmetic reasons.

‘The Animal Welfare Bill published on Friday 14th October 2005 retained, as expected, a provision for a ban on animal mutilations subject to specified exemptions.

‘The RSPCA wants to see a total ban on the non-therapeutic docking of dogs’ tails enshrined in law and is actively seeking expressions of support from veterinarians in the furtherance of this aim.

‘I would be extremely grateful if you would write a statement in support of the RSPCA’s policy against the tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes.’

When the AWB was published, the Government’s view on docking was outlined by DEFRA Minister Ben Bradshaw who said that he saw no reason to change the status quo – i.e. that docking is permitted if carried out by a registered veterinary surgeon but that it would be left to Parliament to make the final decision. Many owners of docked breeds fear that this would man that MPs would give into pressure and vote for an outright docking ban without considering the health and welfare aspects this would entail for traditionally docked breeds.

Ginette Elliott, Secretary of the Council of Docked Breeds told OUR DOGS: "Not too long ago, an RSPCA spokesperson said they didn't try or involve themselves directly with Government on the docking issue. This just highlights their desperation to get their own way and they should hang their heads in shame for saying one thing and doing another!

"The RSPCA should give a ‘full explanation’ of the reasons why any vet should provide such a statement."

Becky Hawkes of the RSPCA’s Press Office vehemently denied that any such statement had been made by the RSPCA, saying: "The Council of Docked Breeds are entirely mistaken - there is no story here, given there has not been any change of RSPCA policy! Given the unlikelihood of such a comment being given, I would be interested to hear the name of the so-called RSPCA spokesperson, and a date when and place where this alleged comment was made - if your CDB contact is able to provide it.

"A small amount of research demonstrates our policy has not changed, nor has our intention to get a ban on non-therapeutic tail docking enshrined in law. Indeed, the RSPCA's original submission to the Government in response to the first consultation on the Animal Welfare Bill (in early 2002) clearly states: ‘The tail docking of dogs should be prohibited except where a veterinary surgeon determines it necessary for therapeutic reasons. Docking should also be prohibited in any dog before its eyes open and must always be carried out with appropriate anaesthetic.’"

Ms Hawkes added: "The Council of Docked Breeds may not share the opinion of the RSPCA or that of respected veterinary bodies such as BSAVA and RCVS, however, it is entirely mistaken in its accusation that the Society has changed its position on this matter. We hope, for the sake of improved welfare, that Parliament sees to it that the non-therapeutic tail docking of dogs is banned on the face of the Animal Welfare Bill."