Farmer is fined for docking pups’ tails
A SCOTTISH farmer has been fined £500 for docking the tails of five puppies in one of the first cases of its kind since the introduction of the total tail docking ban in Scotland a year ago.
William Fotheringham, 37, was prosecuted after arranging to have the tails removed from the three-day old Jack Russells on his Perthshire farm.
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which reported the incident, welcomed the conviction. Fotheringham, who was convicted under the law introduced under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act last April, said he was acting in the dogs' best interest.
At Perth Sheriffs’ Court, he admitted causing a prohibited procedure to be carried out on the animals at Bankhead Farm in Forteviot on 14 September last year.
Procurator fiscal Helen Nisbet said: ‘The SSPCA received an anonymous report regarding the fact that animals were being advertised for sale so they visited the farm. They saw the puppies and found these had been docked in contravention of the legislation.’
Fotheringham had never denied he had the tail docking carried out. He told investigators that someone had come to his home to complete the procedure.
Giving Fotheringham a £500 fine, Sheriff Richard McFarlane said: ‘It is a practice which has gone on for a good while and the legislation has revisited the whole question.’
Outside court, Fotheringham was unrepentent and said: ‘I did not do it for cosmetic reasons. It is done for welfare reasons. I use the dogs for ratting and foxes and if they are running about the tail is the first thing a rat or fox will take hold of. If I had known it was against the law I would not have done it. It seems pretty ridiculous. I was very surprised to be prosecuted.’
A spokesman for the SSPCA welcomed the prosecution under the fledgling legislation and described the £500 fine as ‘appropriate’.
Working dogs are exempt from the tail docking legislation in England and Wales, but the law applies to all dogs in Scotland. A number of Scottish working dog breeders are reported to be taking pregnant bitches south of the border to give birth in England, so that the puppies can be legally docked and then return to Scotland with them. They cannot then be prosecuted under the Scottish law, despite plans by the Scottish Assembly to revise the law to disallow this practice.
James Scott of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (Scotland) told OUR DOGS:
‘BASC Scotland hopes that this prosecution will raise awareness of the legislation banning the docking of tails of any dogs in Scotland. It shows that farmers and other land managers are still convinced of the welfare benefits of docking the tails of working dogs. We are surprised that animal welfare charities do not see the benefits of tail docking in these sorts of circumstances. To say tails are only docked as a hangover of some Georgian tax is pretty ridiculous, as is the entirely spurious belief that a docked dog cannot communicate effectively with other dogs. BASC Scotland, and other rural organisations in Scotland, will continue to lobby for an exemption from this legislation for working dogs.’