‘A ban on tail docking will compromise animal welfare’
The Kennel Club’s concerns regarding a potential blanket ban on tail docking have increased significantly since the Minister stated at the Animal Welfare Bill Standing Committee that: "Going by the balance of opinion in the Committee, we would bring forward a statutory instrument…which would implement a full ban on the tail docking of dogs" (Ben Bradshaw MP, Standing Committee Report, 17.01.06 Column 70).
The Minister made this statement despite there being a seemingly balanced argument on tail docking at the Second Reading debate on Tuesday (10 January). Throughout that debate, several Members of Parliament expressed views suggesting that legislation on tail docking should remain intact.
"There are people on both sides of the fence examining animal welfare issues, and not all objections made on the basis of animal welfare are right" (James Duddridge MP, Second Reading debate, 10.01.06 Column 215).
"I have been referred to at least three senior veterinary sources who have come to the conclusion that tail docking is not cruel because young puppies do not have the same nervous systems as grown dogs". (Ed Vaizey MP, Second Reading debate, 10.01.06 Column 232-5).
The Kennel Club appreciates that the subject of tail docking is an emotive one. However prior to introducing a ban, the Government must consider whether this really is in the welfare interests of the dogs affected. In order to do this, it must consider the FACTS!
FACT 1: Current legislation - The docking of dogs’ tails is an operation that may only be performed by a veterinary surgeon within the first 10 days of a puppy’s life. This is because a puppy is born at a different stage of development to humans, meaning their nervous systems are not fully developed until they are around 2 weeks of age.
FACT 2: Kennel Club Breed Standards - Breed Standards have long allowed docked and undocked tails in traditionally docked breeds. They provide a description of the undocked tails and dogs with such undocked tails have gone on to have success in the ring.
FACT 3: Research from countries that have banned docking - According to a report: ‘Tail Injuries of German Shorthaired Pointer dogs born in Sweden in 1989’, after the 1st January 1989 (when tail docking was banned), 35% of German Shorthaired Pointers had suffered tail injuries by the time they were 2.5 years old.
FACT 4: Research in the UK - Over 98% of the 763 working gundogs surveyed by the Kennel Club were docked. Of the small percentage of those undocked, a high proportion suffered tail damage - 75% of Clumber Spaniels, 20% of English Springer Spaniels and 25% of Wirehaired Vizsla’s.
FACT 5: Working Gundog exemption - 15% (40,235) of dogs the Kennel Club registered in 2005 were from working gundog breeds. This means that even on the assumption that if only 20% of the 40,235 dogs registered from working gundog breeds actually work, over 2800 would suffer a tail injury every year (based on the Swedish evidence that suggests 35% of undocked working gundogs suffered a tail injury by the time they were 2.5 years old). This means that after 11 years at least 30,800 dogs would have suffered a tail injury as a result of a blanket ban on tail docking.
In conclusion, Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said "The next few weeks are crucial with regard to the docking debate and we are lobbying hard to ensure that politicians fully consider the facts with regard to this issue and do not arrive at decisions hastily. Docking is emotive, but provided the procedure is carried out within the first few days of life it is not cruel and indeed, in some instances a ban could well compromise animal welfare."