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RCVS calls for docking ban ahead of vote

THE COUNCIL of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has unanimously agreed to support an amendment to the Animal Welfare Bill prohibiting tail docking in dogs, except for therapeutic purposes.

This would be subject to a review after five years, to take stock of scientific evidence of any change in the incidence of tail injuries in dogs during this period.

Currently, the RCVS’ Guide to Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons accepts that docking may be permissible if it is for therapeutic or truly prophylactic reasons. This guidance will be reviewed if Parliament decides to change the law when the Animal Welfare Bill is discussed again next week, when it is understood that there will be a parliamentary vote on amendments to the Bill, including tail-docking, on Tuesday 14 March.

The RCVS said that it hoped Parliament will make all non-therapeutic docking unlawful.
If the law is changed, a veterinary surgeon who docks a tail in circumstances not permitted by the amended law will be at risk of prosecution, as well as disciplinary action by the RCVS.

"For some time the RCVS has been firmly opposed to the docking of dogsÅf tails without good clinical reasons," commented Lynne Hill, the RCVS President.

"In 1993, when the law was changed and our current guidance laid down, it was hoped that cosmetic docking would in effect stop. Veterinary surgeons were advised then that they should only undertake therapeutic and ‘truly prophylactic’ docking, and docking by anyone else was banned. Yet evidence suggests a lot of non-therapeutic docking is still being carried out, whether by veterinary surgeons or others.

"A ban with any exemptions is very difficult to enforce and this proved to be the case with tail-docking. It has proved hard to gather sufficient evidence to hear cases against veterinary surgeons that may have transgressed the guidance. We have come to the conclusion that it is time to stop prophylactic docking altogether.

"Animal welfare must be to the fore in any decision made by RCVS Council, and with a new Animal Welfare Bill going through Parliament this seemed like an excellent opportunity to call for a ban on all but therapeutic docking in dogs," she concluded.

Peter Squires, Chairman of the Council of Docked Breeds hit out at the RCVS’s comments saying:

"The latest press release from the RCVS Council, smacks of their usual hypocrisy. They suggest that a ban ‘would be subject to a review after five years, to take stock of scientific evidence'’.

What scientific evidence have they put forward to support a ban? NONE! And who is likely to gather this new evidence? The RCVS cannot be trusted to do so, as their sole aim has been made crystal clear.

Mr Squires added: "If Animal welfare is to the fore in any decision made by RCVS Council as Mrs Hill suggests, it would have mounted a scientific study into tail docking. The closest they appear to have got to a study, was the Working Party to Consider the Mutilation of Animals in 1987. The report ran to in excess of 5000 words, but so far as docking was concerned, all it could manage to say was ‘College's views already known’.

"As we have come to expect from all anti docking campaigners by now, many words, no substance and not the hint of scientific proof required backing up their conclusions. We deserve more from what should be a respected organisation".