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Docking: Impact Review needed?

IN THE ongoing furore over the Government’s capitulation to anti-docking animal welfare groups during the Animal Welfare Bill’s passage through Parliament, it may be worth considering the lessons of anti-docking legislation in other countries. Similarly, some breeders have laid criticism at the Kennel Club’s door for not taking a more pro-active stance against the planned ban.

Leading UK breeder and member of the Council of Docked Breeds RON HENNEY suggests that it is not too late for the Kennel Club to make a stand and undertake some research to strengthen the case for allowing docking to continue…


We have heard all about Government impact assessments, about the possible loss of income that might be suffered by the impoverished Veterinary profession. It is surely time for the Kennel Club [and I can think of no more appropriate body] to produce, before the report stage, an impact study on the effect of a docking ban on Pedigree dog breeding.

This, I suspect, is the ‘impact knowledge’ that is important to breeders. It must not involve the present day preoccupation with money, money, how much money?!

Critics of the docking procedure try to denigrate the practice calling it "A barbaric mutilation. A mere cosmetic fad!" Well there are quite a few of the latter about and I could well see myself applying the description ‘barbaric’ to them. I fully accept that the docked breeds are cosmetically aesthetic. Should they be singled out and derided for that? That is merely what is seen. More important is what is achieved by docking.

I have said before that in addition to the avoidance of hurt is the ‘Maintaining of Breed Standards.’ This means exactly what it says. The word ‘standards’ splits into two parts. First the specific requirements for shape, size, agility, etc: The second is the unwritten requirement, accepted by all genuine breeders, that the conformation to standard is maintained in the context of ‘health and temperament’

One important way to achieve this [as we are told by the vet profession] is to maintain a broad gene pool. This is precisely what docking helps to do for the breeds in question. It is a simple and effective way of avoiding obsession with one particular aspect that is notoriously difficult to standardise and ‘fix’ i.e. tail length, carriage and placement. Docking thus increases selectivity and available stock for breeding.

I am responsible on behalf of the Council of Docked Breeds for liaison between that organisation and the docking issue in Australia & New Zealand. We work closely with the Kennel Club committees of both these countries that have delegated the task of overseeing the matter as it affects them.

The Australian tables reproduced here relate registration data for traditionally docked breeds from the twelve months before and twelve months after the introduction of a ban in New South Wales. There is a difficulty in that bans were introduced at different times in different states, whilst no such docking ban exists in the two remaining states and hence some crossover impact distortion. However the situation, I am told, is getting worse. To illustrate: Dobermann registrations: when NSW state is taken in isolation, these are down 79% not the 48% shown in the table

It also has to be born in mind that the registration figures relate to newborn stock that have still to undergo selection as having potential for breeding.

The information does not seem out of line with what we hear from time to time from various European countries where a docking ban has been introduced.

The KC has, in recent years, rightly taken more interest in health and genetics. Breeders pay out considerable sums to try and improve the health and well being their breeds. Is all this to be allowed to go to waste by the World’s premier authority on dog breeding?

I feel the involvement of the KC's Health and Genetics Departments is long overdue and they should be asked to produce PDQ an impact review for very, very wide publication. I believe these registration figures on themselves afford a strong basis for such a study.


Australian Registrations of Traditionally Docked Breeds
Before and After Docking Bans Introduced

Breed - Pre Ban - Post Ban - Change

Airedale Terrier 313 192 -38.66%
Australian Shepherd 288 174 -39.58%
Australian Silky Terrier 464 286 -38.36%
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog 157 128 -18.47%
Australian Terrier 305 394 29.18%
Black Russian Terrier 24 4 -83.33%
Bouvier Des Flandres 24 39 62.50%
Boxer 1773 1318 -25.66%
Brittany 96 99 3.13%
Cairn Terrier 369 361 -2.17%
Central Asian Shepherd Dog 11 17 54.55%
Clumber Spaniel 21 14 -33.33%
Cocker Spaniel 1724 1194 -30.74%
Cocker Spaniel (American) 116 124 6.90%
Dobermann 1122 581 -48.22%
English Springer Spaniel 324 187 -42.28%
English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan) 25 24 -4.00%
Field Spaniel 12 14 16.67%
Fox Terrier (Smooth) 352 273 -22.44%
Fox Terrier (Wire) 64 31 -51.56%
German Pinscher 54 40 -25.93%
German Shorthaired Pointer 658 566 -13.98%
German Wirehaired Pointer 50 71 42.00%
Griffon Bruxellois 96 141 46.88%
Hungarian Vizsla 359 329 -8.36%
Irish Terrier 102 77 -24.51%
Irish Water Spaniel 15 9 -40.00%
Italian Corso Dog 27 13 -51.85%
Italian Spinone 8 0 -100.00%
Jack Russell Terrier 1485 1143 -23.03%
Kerry Blue Terrier 37 14 -62.16%
King Charles Spaniel 44 26 -40.91%
Lagotto Romagnolo 40 49 22.50%
Lakeland Terrier 47 43 -8.51%
Manchester Terrier 49 43 -12.24%
Miniature Pinscher 307 198 -35.50%
Neap Mastiff 175 133 -24.00%
Norfolk Terrier 3 12 300.00%
Norwich Terrier 18 15 -16.67%
Old English Sheepdog 138 91 -34.06%
Parson Russell Terrier 25 35 40.00%
Pointer 154 105 -31.82%
Poodle (Miniature) 476 416 -12.61%
Poodle (Standard) 432 415 -3.94%
Poodle (Toy) 1403 1127 -19.67%
Rottweiler 1803 1221 -32.28%
Schipperke 138 82 -40.58%
Schnauzer 187 142 -24.06%
Schnauzer (Giant) 63 37 -41.27%
Schnauzer (Miniature) 944 828 -12.29%
Scottish Terrier 158 139 -12.03%
Sealyham Terrier 12 14 16.67%
Skye Terrier 35 10 -71.43%
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier 50 76 52.00%
Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog (Dev. Register) 0 1 0.00%
Sussex Spaniel 9 0 -100.00%
Tenterfield Terrier 260 267 2.69%
Weimaraner 604 476 -21.19%
Weimaraner (Long Haired) 27 19 -29.63%
Welsh Corgi (Cardigan) 111 101 -9.01%
Welsh Corgi (Pembroke) 611 520 -14.89%
Welsh Springer Spaniel 64 47 -26.56%
Welsh Terrier 27 40 48.15%
West Highland White Terrier 1092 1154 5.68%
Yorkshire Terrier 260 207 -20.38%
20241 15947 -21.21%


Australian DOCKED BREED registrations Pre & Post Docking Ban In NSW
Pre Ban June 03 to May 04 Total 20241
Post Ban June 04 to May 05 Total 15947
CHANGE = 21.21%