Scottish parliament votes to lift full ban on docking


Scottish parliament votes to lift full ban on docking

THE TOTAL ban on docking dogs’ tails in Scotland has been ended as MSPs have voted to lift the restriction on working breeds.

Legislative reforms have been passed by Holyrood’s environment committee which will allow vets to shorten the tails of spaniels and hunt point retrievers when they are puppies.

Roseanna Cunningham, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Perthshire South and Kinrossshire and Environment Secretary, said the change was because of continued evidence that certain working breeds are at increased risk of injury without having their tails docked.

To prevent the new legislation becoming a loophole for breeders, a vet must be satisfied they have sufficient evidence to show the dog will be used as a working dog in later life. It will only be legal to remove the end third of the tail.

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, is extremely disappointed that docking will now be legal in some circumstances.


Will of the people

A statement released by the organisation said: “The legalisation of the practice goes against the will of the Scottish people; a 2016 opinion poll of the Scottish public, carried out by YouGov on behalf of a coalition of animal welfare charities, showed 71 per cent of those polled believed the ban on docking puppies’ tails should be maintained for all dogs.” 

Dogs Trust’s deputy veterinary director, Runa Hanaghan, who gave evidence to the Environmemnt Climate Change and Land Reform committee on Dogs Trust’s position against tail docking, said: “Dogs Trust is deeply saddened that the Scottish Government is planning on re-introducing this outdated and unnecessary practice. Sadly today we’ve seen a significant step backwards for animal welfare from a country that once led the way.”

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has also expressed disappointment at MSPs’ support for going some way to reversing the ban on tail docking in Scotland.

Speaking at the ECCLR’s evidence session on the motion, BVA Scottish Branch president and veterinary surgeon Melissa Donald reiterated the BVA position against tail docking and raised concerns as to the enforceability of the proposed legislation.

Dr Donald also questioned the extent to which the prevalence of tail injuries in later life justifies a change in legislation.

Commenting on the vote, Dr Donald said: “We are saddened that the Committee voted in favour of reversing Scotland’s previously progressive stance on tail docking. Research commissioned by the Scottish Government suggests that up to 320 spaniel puppies would need to be docked to prevent one tail amputation. This prevalence of tail injury simply does not justify unnecessarily submitting puppies to this painful procedure.

“The committee’s decision to vote in favour of tail docking among spaniels and hunt point retrievers marks the start of a retrograde step for animal welfare in Scotland.

“We urge MSPs to maintain Scotland’s position as a leader in animal welfare by safeguarding canine health and welfare when the legislation goes to a full chamber vote.”

However, Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko was more positive about the new legislation.

She said: “While we support UK-wide bans on tail shortening for aesthetic reasons, we have long been disappointed that, unlike in England and Wales, there were no exemptions for working dogs in Scotland when tail shortening was banned under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act.” 

“Those who have voted in favour of an exemption for genuine working dogs have taken on board extensive evidence on tail injuries from a range of experts and we believe this is the right decision.”

The amendment will now be taken to a full chamber vote in the Scottish Parliament.