The Sunday Times – Scotland
September 11, 2005
Dog breeders furious at plan to ban tail docking
LABOUR is facing a fresh battle with the countryside over plans to prevent dog breeders from docking the tails of dogs.
The centuries-old practice is to be outlawed under new animal welfare legislation being introduced by the Scottish executive and the UK government.
Ministers claim the procedure amounts to â€œmutilationâ€ and have warned that any breeders who flout the new law face a Â£5,000 fine and up to six months in prison.
The move follows pressure from animal rights groups and many vets who claim it is barbaric to dock tails for cosmetic reasons.
But breeders deny docking is cruel and claim the move is the latest example of a â€œclass warâ€ that Labour is intent on waging, following on from its decision to ban foxhunting.
The Kennel Club, which organises Crufts, warned that the competition, which has been held since 1891, would be damaged as a result. Breeders have already indicated that they will stop entering dogs if their tails can no longer be docked. They also believe they will be placed at an unfair advantage when trying to show dogs in other countries where docking bans do not exist.
â€œMany people are drawing the analogy with the ban on foxhunting where itâ€™s about class-busting and the government thinking itâ€™s the right thing to do,â€ said Phil Buckley, a spokesman for the Kennel Club.
â€œA lot of this is about people having the idea that mad old dog-breeders want to mutilate dogs, and that weâ€™ve got to stop this practice because itâ€™s cruel. Well, actually theyâ€™re not mad old dog-breeders. These people have been breeding dogs for generations as their fathers have been before them. They know exactly what theyâ€™re doing and thereâ€™s no evidence to suggest that itâ€™s cruel.
There are more than 50 traditionally docked breeds recognised by the Kennel Club, including cocker spaniels, pointers, Irish terriers and vizslas. In future docking will only be allowed for working dogs whose tails could otherwise become painfully damaged.
Supporters of docking say the new legislation could see some breeds disappear for ever. There are also hygiene arguments for docking. Long-haired, thick-coated breeds such as the Yorkshire terrier and old English sheepdog are docked to avoid the hair around the base of the tail becoming fouled.
Most breeders use the technique known as â€œbandingâ€, in which a ligature is placed over the end of a puppyâ€™s tail within four days of birth. This effectively cuts off the blood supply to the end of the tail, which comes away within three days.
The Kennel Club claims the procedure causes no pain when carried out correctly.
However, opponents of docking say a dogâ€™s tail is important in allowing it to express natural behaviour as it assists balance and is used to express mood.