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SKC launch bid to have docking ban reversed

THE SCOTTISH Kennel Club will this week petition the Scottish Assembly to reverse the controversial docking ban which it introduced late last year as part of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill.

Unlike the docking ban introduced for England and Wales under the Labour Government’s Animal Welfare Bill (now Act), there is no exemption for working dogs, a point which has been deemed shortsighted and dangerous by pro-docking groups.

The SKC issued a statement on its plans saying: ‘The Scottish Kennel Club believes that the proposed ban on the tail shortening of puppies will compromise the future health and welfare of some 10,000 puppies in Scotland each year. For health and welfare reasons, we petition Parliament to exempt puppies in the secondary legislation of the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Bill.’

This is the heading on the petition which will be delivered to the Scottish Executive this Friday 5 January.


The Scottish Kennel Club (SKC) has existed since 1881 to protect and promote the interests and welfare of dogs in Scotland. There are some 10,000 puppies of docked breeds born in Scotland each year and it is the responsibility of SKC and its members to protect their interests. Over 5250 dog lovers have added their names to the petition in the hope that MSPs will listen to the people who, day and daily, nurture and strive to improve the breed to which they have committed their lives.


The SKC points out in its petition: ‘True dog people have no professional lobbyists, no political wing and no paid public affairs officers. They spend their time voluntarily exercising their ‘duty of care’ with the pedigree breed of their choosing. MSPs and other welfare organisations now criticise by telling these dedicated people that they ‘mutilate’ their puppies yet none of these critics are involved in pedigree dogs. Who are the experts in the breeds?

‘The Scottish Parliament proposes a total ban on tail shortening, but it appears they do not wish to take account of the future implications of their decisions for these puppies.

‘Tail shortening has never been practised for cosmetic reasons nor has it been carried out to conform to any breed standard. It has only been conducted to prevent the risk of tail injury to vulnerable breeds. No scientific study has been conducted to warrant the risk of injury to so many puppies.

‘No other country has an equal dog population per square mile as that of the UK. Since the ban in Norway, 10% of Boxers have required surgery to amputate tails in adult life. Since the ban in Sweden, 35% rising to 51% of German Pointers have also required surgery thus subjecting the dogs to the risks involved in general anaesthesia and long months of healing. Should those percentages occur in Scotland then between 1000 and 5100 dogs will require surgery each year. Is this acceptable in a so-called Animal Health & Welfare Act?

‘The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association maintain that docking is painful though no scientific evidence has been produced to substantiate their claim.

Considering that only vets have been legally allowed to dock since 1993, any such pain inflicted cannot be laid at the breeders’ door. Many vets use the banding method as is used on lambs. In November 2006, an Australian magistrate stated that in his view banding was ‘NOT CRUELTY’.

The decision is supported by the fact that there remains no scientific evidence to suggest that the banding of dogs’ tails is cruel. He, therefore, dismissed the accusation of cruelty brought against a dog breeder by the Australian RSPCA for banding puppies. He also stated that it would be ‘hard to argue that banding dogs was cruel when millions of sheep are banded each year’.

‘Other arguments used by anti-docking organisations are that dogs with shortened tails are more aggressive. There has been no study into this assertion neither has any evidence been brought forward. One has only to visit the two Championship Dog Shows run by SKC each year to witness first hand the hundreds of docked dogs standing in close proximity to each other with no sign of any aggression. Regardless of this, Ms Rosemary Byrne MSP (South of Scotland) (SSP) has stated in Parliament that ‘Research demonstrates that puppies with docked tails show higher levels of stress and aggression than those without docked tails.’ Despite a request for sight of this research, none has been forthcoming.

‘It is also argued that these dogs cannot communicate. Mr Mark Ruskell MSP (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green) made a statement in the Chamber that there was ‘evidence on the long-term negative impact on dogs' ability to communicate and maintain agility without a tail’. One has to be concerned that MSPs are under such misconceptions. Does this mean that docked dogs fall over all the time? What of the other species, many tail-less, Gorillas, mountain goats, many Antelope, Manx cats and Lynx to name but a few, but which are extremely agile without a tail?

‘Communication between dogs starts at scent travelling quickly along the body. Despite the BVA poster stating that ‘all puppies are born with tails’, this is untrue as there are a significant number of breeds where natural ‘bobs’ (naturally short or tail-less puppies) are born. Communication and learning of social skills in these dogs is no different from dogs born with full tails.

‘The Act is stated, frequently, to be a useful tool to prevent suffering yet this ban has the potential to create even more suffering. It is known that many dogs already suffer the pain and distress of tail injury. The proposal not to exempt puppies of vulnerable breeds from this secondary legislation will only add significant numbers to the already high percentage of dogs who must undergo amputation in adult life.

‘There is no doubt that, with the forthcoming election, dog people, who have a sizeable vote, will be exercising that vote against this proposal. Tail shortening of puppies is a health and welfare issue and protects the dog from injury for life.’

The Council of Docked Breeds welcomed the SKC’s proposal. CDB Chairman Peter Squires said:

‘The Scottish Kennel Club is to be congratulated on their firm stand on this issue and for backing their petition up with intelligent data. We wish them well in their approach to the Scottish Parliament and hope that commonsense will prevail and that this ill-thought-out ban will be lifted.’