On Thursday 23rd February, Scottish Kennel Club representatives and members joined with The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA), The Scottish Working Dogs Association, The Scottish Working Terrier Club, National Working Terrier Federation and The Weimaraner Club of Scotland outside the Scottish Parliament to protest against the total ban on docking contained within the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Bill and in an attempt to, at least, salvage an exemption for working dogs.
With the debate due to start at around 9.15am, approximately, 25 Gundogs and Terriers gathered at 8.30am in the cold and what seemed like permanent rain.
Television and Radio, together with many photographers were also present thus giving the protest some much needed free publicity.
The feelings of the group were that this ‘Welfare’ Bill would create the very suffering it was meant to avoid. Several MSPs joined in, listened carefully, and sympathetically, to the concerns, to then have joint photographs taken which should appear in the national press.
A party of school children heading for the debating chamber also joined in surrounded by dogs of all sizes, all of which were on their best behaviour.
Later in the debating Chamber where there were about the same number of dog people in the gallery as there were MSPs in the Chamber itself, the group heard yet again the unsubstantiated, erroneous and misleading comments from Ms Rosemary Byrne (South of Scotland) (SSP) ‘That (communication) is even more important in puppies, as they are learning their social skills for later life. Research demonstrates that puppies with docked tails show higher levels of stress and aggression than those without docked tails.’
What a pity Ms Rosemary Byrne MSP had not ventured out to see the dogs standing shoulder to shoulder, communicating with each other, welcoming the children and not being the slightest bit aggressive. Challenged in the chamber by Mr Ted Brocklebank MSP (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con) said ‘Rosemary Byrne refers to the point that tail docking makes it more difficult for dogs to express themselves.
If she had been at the gathering that the Countryside Alliance organised this morning and had seen the many happy dogs that were on display, not with their tails cropped right up to the base of the spine but with a section of the tail taken away, wagging their tails perfectly happily and responding to the cameras and other things that were happening, she might have changed her mind on that’.
Ms Byrne replied ‘I doubt that I would have done, because I have consulted widely on the issue. I have spoken to my local vets in Irvine and have been assured that what I have said is the case, so we will agree to differ on that.
There is strong evidence that docking causes pain. Puppies have fully developed nervous systems and can feel pain. There is also evidence that docking can lead to complications in later life: the stump of the tail can be painful due to the formation of nervous tissue scarring. Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and Germany have all banned docking and it is interesting that, despite many claims to the contrary, there is no proof that there has been an increase in tail injuries in those countries as a result of the ban.’
Scottish Kennel Club will be asking for this evidence to scrutinise.
Earlier Mr Mark Ruskell MSP (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green) had also adhered to the misconception that ‘with the evidence on the long-term negative impact on dogs' ability to communicate and maintain agility without a tail, I see no reason to maintain the illogical tradition of docking.’ One has to wonder how the thousands of docked dogs manage to run freely, jump gaps, participate in Agility, where they must run across a 10" wide plank over 4’ in the air. Any, and all, owners of docked breeds, be they working, show or companion, know this statement to be completely inaccurate.
Data of a massive increase in tail injuries collected in Sweden was later discredited by Rhona Brankin MSP, Deputy Minister to Ross Finnie. ‘Several members have referred to the Swedish study, but it has been shown by the Swedish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Affairs to be unscientific. The report was based on a small number of animals of one breed and no veterinary evidence was included. Furthermore, it was not a controlled study and it has not been peer reviewed. We simply cannot act on the basis of such evidence.’
Since 1881, The Scottish Kennel Club has existed to promote and protect the Health and Welfare of pedigree dogs in Scotland. The Bill is stated, frequently, to be a useful tool to prevent suffering yet has the potential to create suffering with this ban.
It is patently obvious that there are no figures of tail injuries in working dogs as these dogs are already docked. On the other hand, The Kennel Gazette publishes, on a regular basis, a list of dogs which have had to endure amputation due to tail injury.
It is to be feared that these numbers may well escalate.