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Tail docking ban "does not have public support"

A BAN on tail docking does not enjoy the "overwhelming support of the public", despite what vets and some animal welfare groups say. A new poll shows that a clear majority of the public think the docking of working dogs should be allowed to continue. Meanwhile a senior vet has said that he believes "there is a welfare case for the docking of working dogs’ tails".

MPs will vote on a ban on tail docking, which is only carried out by vets, at the Report Stage of the Animal Welfare Bill on 8th March.

The poll, carried out by ORB* for the Countryside Alliance, shows that just 39% of people think that the docking of working dogs should be banned. The survey asked:

Typically a vet may dock (shorten) a dog’s tail when the dog is young for two reasons - one is for cosmetic reasons (i.e. to enter the dog into a competition), the other is for working dogs (such as police dogs and working spaniels) to prevent serious tail injuries to them. Which of the following would you prefer?

Banning this procedure for all types of dogs: 36%
Banning this procedure for working dogs: 3%
Total - banning for working dogs: 39%
Banning this procedure for cosmetic reasons: 34%
None of these - this procedure should be allowed to continue: 27%

At present the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) guidance on this issue accepts that docking may be permissible if it is for therapeutic or truly prophylactic reasons. The College suggests that it is for Parliament to decide how to interpret this in law.

John Parker JP MA VetMB FRCVS, last year’s President and now Senior Vice-President of the RCVS, is not convinced by the need for a complete ban. He says: "As a countryman and a vet who has seen injuries to working dogs’ tails I have docked all of the many working dogs I have bred. I personally believe that there is a welfare case for the docking of working dogs’ tails. I am not satisfied there is ever a justification for cosmetic docking.

"In my view, the best way forward would be to remove all the conjecture, anecdotal evidence and emotion that have clouded this debate and conduct a proper scientific investigation into the welfare consequences of banning the docking of working dogs".

However, a proposal was due to be put to the RCVS’s Council at its meeting on Thursday of this week (2nd March) that it should support a ban on all except therapeutic docking. This would be subject to review after five years, in the light of a scientific review of evidence of the incidence of tail injuries in working dogs during this period. The College expects a lively debate as strong personal views are held by veterinary surgeons on both sides.

Meanwhile, the Council of Docked Breeds (CDB) welcomed the Countryside Alliance’s publication of the independent poll which clearly shows that the majority of the general public do not want a ban on tail docking.

"The vote is split fairly evenly" said Peter Squires, President of the CDB.
"Close on one third want the status quo to remain, another third support the option for just working dogs and only 36% want a complete ban.

"Considering that the public have been bombarded with hysterical misinformation from the RSPCA, two thirds of the public supporting the continuation of tail docking is a remarkable result in our favour.

"I hope that our politicians take note that these results reflect the wishes of their constituents and that with over 1 million docked dogs in the UK, tail docking is not a matter affecting just a few of them, and one which needs careful consideration based on fact not hearsay, before they vote on the Animal Welfare Bill on March 8th".

* ORB interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,003 adults aged 18+ throughout England, Scotland and Wales between 10th - 12th February 2006. ORB is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its Code of Conduct.