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Tail docking exemption unchanged by Lords

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, who opposes docking and favours compulsory registration of dogs, is also Chairman of the Companion Animal Welfare Council.

THE TAIL docking exemption for working dogs looks likely to remain unchanged in the Animal Welfare Bill following a debate in the House of Lords last week.

Despite concerns from Lord Soulsby the majority of Peers were satisfied with the exemption tabled in the House of Commons.

Lord Soulsby is Chairman of the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC), which is vehemently anti-docking and has repeatedly called for compulsory dog registration – another point that Lord Soulsby raised during the debate and one that was also put aside by his fellow peers.

Working dogs were excluded from a general ban on cosmetic docking in England and Wales after a free vote in the House of Commons during the Bill’s Third Reading in March. The issue is still being debated by the Scottish Parliament under their own Animal Health and Welfare Bill, although a total ban on tail docking with no exemptions look likely to be introduced north of the border, which led the Westminster Lords to consider the matter of "docking tourism" between Scotland and England, whereby Scottish working dogs may be docked in England.

The Government tabled some technical amendments to the Bill which were agreed by the Lords during debate. These re-enforce that only Terriers, Pointers, Spaniels and their cross-breeds can be docked for prophylactic reasons.

The issue may be debated again at Report stage of the Bill in late June or early July but it seems certain, from last week’s debate that the working dog exemption will remain intact.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has lobbied MPs and Peers over the last few months to make the case for the exemption. Thousands of BASC members also wrote to and emailed MPs and Peers and sent in lobby cards provided by BASC.

BASC’s Director of Communications, Christopher Graffius, said, "The exemption for working dogs is an important victory for animal welfare and I am pleased that the Peers debating this issue came to the same conclusion."

Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance welcomed the decision of the House of Lords to retain the docking exemption.

Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: "By keeping an exemption for working dogs, the Lords have engaged with our arguments, and common sense has prevailed.

"An exemption for working dogs is entirely in keeping with the principles of the Animal Welfare Bill, and the Alliance is extremely pleased that its extensive lobbying campaign has been successful and the efforts of its thousands of supporters throughout this process has been worthwhile".

The Council of Docked Breeds was invited by OUR DOGS to comment on the matter, but did not issue a statement by the time we went to press on Tuesday. However, a statement on the CDB website said:

"Tail Docking was ‘debated’ in the Grand Committee 23rd May for just 30 minutes. The outcome was that there should be no changes to the Bill as proposed by the Commons so far as tail docking is concerned.

"The Grand Committee ran out of time on the 24th and set the date of 14th June to continue discussing other parts of the Bill. Once the Grand Committee has finished, the Bill then goes to report stage where other Lords might be inclined to debate the matter further. The Report Stages will be the last chance for any Lord to raise issue with the currently proposed Bill. The Report Stage is unlikely to happen before the first week in July.

"CDB members are urged to contact Lords from whom they have previously received a positive response, to encourage them again to raise and support the status quo as originally supported by the Government."