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Charities back call for tail docking ban

TAIL DOCKING for dogs should be banned, according to the RSPCA and several other animal charities.

The second reading of the Animal Welfare Bill, (AWB) is due to take place next Tuesday 10 January 2006. The day before, the RSPCA is holding a press conference at the British Veterinary Association’s HQ in London, where TV Vet Emma Milne, together with representatives from the BVA and RSPCA will stage a press conference detailing how docking is harmful and unnecessary and should be banned.

The RSPCA, British Veterinary Association, British Small Veterinary Association, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, (PDSA), and Wood Green Animal Shelters have all joined with the BVA's Animal Welfare Foundation, (AWF) in a campaign for a complete ban on the non-therapeutic docking of dogs’ tails.

Citing the new Bill as ‘leading the way on welfare issues’ the campaign says it would be a contradiction of the intention of the Bill to allow non-therapeutic tail docking to continue, and intends to lobby MPs accordingly.

Meanwhile, The Kennel Club and Council of Docked Breeds (CDB) are also encouraging dog owners to lobby MPs to ensure that the Bill does not result in a ban. The KC says that scientific evidence exists which proves that, providing the operation is performed before a puppy’s eyes are open and therefore before its senses are fully developed, this practice is not at all harmful.
When the Government published the Animal Welfare Bill last Autumn, they made it clear that they did not seek to change the status quo on docking, preferring to leave this matter to individual dog breeders within the framework of the law, i.e. that docking should only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon.

However, the RSPCA swiftly began to lobby vets to urge MPs to vote for an amendment to the AWB during its Second Reading to ban tail docking altogether.
Their recruitment of ‘TV’ vet Emma Milne, whose views on tail docking and on the health of pedigree dogs are well known, is sure to cause outrage amongst many pro-docking dog enthusiasts.

Ginette Elliot, Secretary of the Council of Docked Breeds commented: ‘Ms Milne's views on docking and on pedigree dog breeding are well known. They are not shared by a large body of respected opinion within the veterinary profession, and nor are they shared by the overwhelming majority of dog breeders with long experience of producing and caring for the traditionally docked breeds.
‘The Government itself has recognised the difference of opinion which exists over docking and after much consideration it has expressed its preference to maintain freedom of choice. The CDB welcomes the Government’s view and has urged MPs to support it as the Animal Welfare Bill proceeds through Parliament.’

In October 2004, vet Emma Milne was warned by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as to her future pronouncements about the health and fitness of pedigree dogs after comments she made in a television documentary programme resulted in scores of complaints from irate dog breeders to the Association.

However, she is still making public comments about her dislike of pedigree dogs and dog showing on her website and is putting herself forward as the RSPCA’s spokesperson at the press conference. On her website she states:

‘I became a vet to help animals and soon realised that I spend a great deal of my time treating conditions that we have bred into the animals because of the concept of the ‘breed standard’. I’m very tired of seeing deformed pets with chronic problems because people believe they look best one way or another.

‘I believe that nature knows best and the truth is that the extremes of shape and conformation we have created in our dogs and cats would never occur naturally. Many of these changes are a result of showing and breeding. I feel very strongly that if you have a pet it should be a relationship that is beneficial to both of you. I don’t like to see dogs being over-groomed and preened so that people can parade them round a ring to try to win prizes with them. This is of no benefit to the animals in any way and simply perpetuates an industry that is genetic modification gone mad.’

At the time of going to press, neither Ms Milne nor the RCVS were available for comment.