A sad day for dog welfare as Scottish Government brings back tail docking

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The government's failure to ban highly controversial shock collars and its plans to reintroduce tail docking have come under fire from animal welfare charities

5th October 2016 by Molly Millar 48 Comments

Animal welfare charities have hit out at the Scottish government over plans they claim are a backward step in the protection of dogs.

The failure to ban electronic shock collars for dogs and cats and the reintroduction of tail docking in some instances have been deeply criticised by OneKind and the Dogs Trust.

Amputating a puppy’s tail is a painful procedure but it is also unnecessary - Paula Boyden

OneKind Director Harry Huyton said: "This is a sad day for dog welfare in Scotland. Reintroducing tail docking and failing to take the opportunity to ban electric shock collars will damage the lives of dogs affected by these practices.

“These decisions also fly in the face of public and expert opinion. Polling from earlier this year shows that three-quarters of the Scottish public back a shock collar ban and want the ban on docking puppy tails to be maintained.”

Announcing its commitment to review offences and penalties for animal cruelty under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, the Scottish Government unveiled plans to regulate electronic training aids for dogs and cats – “electric shock collars”– rather than ban them, as Wales has done. 

Critics however claim shock collars, which use the principle of being aversive to dogs to inhibit behaviour, can cause pain and anxiety. Their use leads to both physiological and behavioural indicators of stress particularly when they cannot be anticipated by the dog.

And despite the fact that tail docking was banned in Scotland in 2007, the government  also said it will introduce an exemption to allow the tail docking of spaniel puppies and certain other working breeds. 

Today’s announcements will mean that the tails of Spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies can be docked shortly after birth, where a vet believes they are likely to be for use as a working dog and risk serious tail injury in later life.

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director said: “Dogs Trust is deeply concerned about the announcement that the Scottish Government will allow certain breeds of dogs to be docked.

“Amputating a puppy’s tail is a painful procedure but it is also unnecessary. Research by the Royal Veterinary College suggests that 500 dogs would need to have their tails docked to prevent one tail injury.

“Tail docking takes place when puppies are just a few days old and so we also question how it can be ensured that only puppies that will go on to be working dogs will have their tails docked.”

The measures were announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, today. The Cabinet Secretary also confirmed the Scottish Government’s intention to ban wild animals in circuses by 2018.

Harry Huyton said:  "We are pleased to see Scotland acting quickly to ban this outmoded and inhumane use of animals in the name of entertainment."

There have been no circuses with wild animals based in Scotland in living memory, but circuses with wild animals have toured Scotland over the last decade.

7th October 2016 by Margaret O'connor

Please ban these practices. Sentences for animal abusers should also be increased significantly. Please.

9th October 2016 by n

I was a vet nurse who help the puppies down whilst they cried out in pain.Their tails are CUT OFF WITHOUT anesthetic.Shame on me for being a stupid 19 year old but SHAME on the government who should know better.

9th October 2016 by mrs cheryl bush

Your action has just lost you a supporter SNP!!

10th October 2016 by Tracy Timmermans

Is there a petition regarding this please?

10th October 2016 by Carol Turner

I'm appalled by this decision let's see I know where I'd start !!!! I'd chop something off your body that isn't necessary without anesthetic see if you'd scream in pain Scotland your a shameful breed ????????????????

10th October 2016 by Shona

Totally barbaric, a dogs tail should be how nature intended not to comply with breed specifics SHAME on the Scottish Government !

11th October 2016 by Connie Moore

This is barbaric disgusting extremely cruel and totally unnecessary and unacceptable! This cannot be allowed to happen!

11th October 2016 by lindy hoppe

Disgraceful!!!! Going back to the dark ages!!!

11th October 2016 by Kirsty

Hello I just wanted to comment that before getting my two beautiful working cocker spaniels 15 years ago I was strongly against tail docking. I thought it a barbaric act used to attain a certain appearance for show dogs. However, both my spaniels, who were pets and had never been used for working, suffered serious tail damage and infection due to repeated trauma. They were dogs who enjoyed off leash running and scrambling through bushes and bracken...it is their instinct and it would be cruel to curtail this and would seriously affect their quality of life. I therefore feel that veterinary tail docking is preferable for this specific breed as, in my experience as a spaniel owner, it would have prevented both my dog's unnecessary suffering. I also thought it worthwhile to point out that it is the lower third portion of the tail which should be docked...in other words the most vulnerable part. It should not therefore affect the dogs ability to express itself and communicate. I can only go on my own experience but I would never wish any dog to go through the prolonged problems my spaniels had to endure.

12th October 2016 by Angela Copperman

Surely the Scottish government have more important issues to discuss rather than docking dogs tails, besides, any disfiguring practices of animals should be banned as they are antiquated and barbaric. Shame on you Scotland.

12th October 2016 by Stuart Maclean

Carol Turner we Scots are not a shameful breed - the SNP are a complete bunch of fannies and do not represent the views of the majority of Scottish people - i really hope they get anotherIndipendance Referendum so they can be banished to the history books for good...!!!!

12th October 2016 by Catherine

I personally think that the docking of puppy tails is an absolute disgrace. No one can be absolutely sure that any puppy is going to end up being a working dog - just as no one can be absolutely sure that they will have a higher chance of a serious accident involving their tail. I'm devastated by the news that the Scottish government has over turned the out right ban on such practises, and my disappointment will be hard to disguise when i next meet my MSP.

12th October 2016 by Lesley Stuart

This is a barbaric process ,cruel to dogs and unneccesary.This causes distress and probably problems in later life . Poor things !!

12th October 2016 by Lorraine Hart

Absolute disgrace this is barbaric and the SNP should hang their heads in shame for allowing this

12th October 2016 by Georgette Karpel

This is barbaric, we are turning the clocks backwards, this is NOT in the interest of the animals walefar. Two thisng strike me as very wrong. (1) Docking tails serves no purpose except when it co es to dog showing which is completely for dignaty, what about the poor animals no one seems to care about the pain and distress this causes these very young dogs. (2) The electric collar, why? I understand how they work but I still feel its a barbaric way to keep a dog under control. This has got to stop this is cruelty, we must petition against this barbaric act.

12th October 2016 by Charlotte

Ever worked a spaniel (yes I said worked that is what these dogs are bred for not just to be loving pets) and have its tail bleeding everywhere because it gets trapped in brambles and bushes, it cuts the end open which results in pain regularly, 2 seconds of pain at 2 days old to nip the tip off prevents this and makes for, ultimately, a happier working dog! Especially when you consider the other option of amputation and a full blown anaesthetic because it had a full fail and injured it!

12th October 2016 by D Land

I fully support the docking of tails for working dogs. Having seen injuries to the tails of working spaniels I have no doubt that the docking of the tail is most definitely in the dogs best interests. I don't believe it should be done for purely cosmetic reasons but in working dogs the benefits by far outweigh any possible cons. As for ensuring only dogs likely to be worked are docked, the simple procedure of providing a shotgun certificate or letter of reference from a gamekeeper seems to work well in England.

12th October 2016 by Maureen

Docking tails are good for humans, they think, but they are very wrong. A dog without the tail that shall balance it's movements is a dog doing it's job poorly, if it this is about 'working' dogs. Just saying...

12th October 2016 by Martyn Ford

The dog illustrated at the top of the page is either a Labrador or a Golden Retriever. They never have their tails docked. The spaniels and HPR breeds that do have their tails docked legally in England have to be done by a vet using local anaesthetic.

13th October 2016 by Shelley

Being married to a Gamekeeper and having seen the torn up tails of working spaniels and having docked tails myself (when this was legal and taught by an experienced person) I know that if done correctly the pups actually cry less than when trodden on by their mother and go back to suckling their mothers immediately. Whereas a spaniel with a ripped up tail (caused by their excessive tail wagging while they do what they are bred for and enjoy so much) which can eventually lead to amputation and permanent damage as you can't stop them wagging while working or even at home the damage can be constantly reopened if the tail hits anything. As long as it is for working dogs only this will save numerous dogs from permanent pain.

13th October 2016 by ELAINE WING

Why is the government getting involved in animal welfare when they have dine no research.....and NOT listening or reading reports from people who know in detail about electric collars tail docking etc., This is so very wrong..... So disgusted by this.......

13th October 2016 by Jamie myers

I support the docking reinstatement. My dog breed historically were docked. Mine has had a broken tail which required vet attention. If he'd had his tail docked with an elastic band as a pup he'd not have to endure the trauma he did. Chopping tails is barbaric but there are alternatives.Dew claw removal however legal and very painful.

13th October 2016 by Shirley

Please don't do this to these poor defenseless puppies! How would you like it done to you!

13th October 2016 by AlbertSpanner

I work both my Spaniels and also am involved with a rescue for the breed and if you ever saw the pain and suffering that happens when a fully grown working dog splits its tail then you would soon change your tune. Legal docking on production of a Shotgun certificate or a written request from a game keeper as is the law in England means that it is restricted to working dogs who are the ones most likely to suffer. It is done at between 3 and 5 days old and as stated a couple of seconds of pain which is all it is as their nervous system isnt developed enough to register any more at that age doesnt traumatise them for life as some of the comments seem to suggest. I for one am very glad they are allowing it again. Note it is only for working dogs!

13th October 2016 by APlatt

Enormous step BACKWARDS in the fight against animal cruelty. People will dock puppies tails JUST because they want to and as stated in the article, how on earth will someone know EVERY puppy they breed will be a working dog!?

13th October 2016 by Trace

Also, please lets ban sticks, because they're often used to cause harm to dogs.Would people in favour of docking for work purposes being banned think dogs would prefer: A) Not to be born at all and never get the chance to enjoy the challenges working breeds love? B) Working dogs to be bred, but possibly suffer really nasty injuries, likely to get infected and so on when doing what they live to do?

14th October 2016 by Sue Elwood

Absolutely no need to dock tails. Barbaric practice. Don't do it.

15th October 2016 by C.Pretorius

Going back in time????? Why?? Is there something wrong with you for wanting to bring back animal cruelty? We are still fighting barbaric, ancient views on how to treat animals in contemporary Europe ( Spain, Romania, Hungary, Greece, etc, etc) and you want to go back to be one of these countries? Why?????

20th October 2016 by Jill Hadfield

Absolutely shocking. There is no reason whatsoever for tail docking except for aesthetic reasons.Dogs have tails for a reason, who is to say that they shouldn't have them. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

21st October 2016 by Anna-Marié van Altena

Mutilating and torturing little puppies for crazy people's inhuman vanities!!I am certain if we could speak "dog"-they would all tell you:"Please don't touch my ears and tail?It is just beautiful and God made me this way for a reason!"The world is overrun by mindless cretins,evil and crazy people...who do not deserve to live!

23rd October 2016 by Patricia Flynn-Williams

If you have ever broken your tailbone, you know how painful it is. Cutting off a dog's tail leaves that sensitive area exposed forever. Why? There is no reason. Shock collars equate to your being tased. Doesn't sound so great, does it? Show some compassion.

23rd October 2016 by Kaye Wotherspoon

What a backward step Scotland! Cannot quite believe you've been hoodwinked into making this stupid irrational decision. Sheer madness! I had hoped with a bright woman at Scotland's helm laws like these would be a thing of the past. Sadly - and shamefully - people in positions of power make consistently bad choices.

26th October 2016 by Valerie

Terrible. Breeders and show people are behind this. Some dogs have trouble with their tails after they been docked.

1st November 2016 by Gillian Caine

WHY? For what purpose barbaric you'll be poisoning them on the streets next get a grip Scotland ????????

8th November 2016 by Shona campbell

Tail docking has no purpose.. simple. Any dismembering of an animal's limb is totally ethically and morally wrong unless it is to save a life.. who on earth decided to reintroduce this????Petition!!???

8th November 2016 by David Robson

The age of going backward! This is utterly unacceptable! Which morons came up with this idea?

12th November 2016 by Lee Gillies

The Scottish Government are going backwards. How would they like it if electric shock collars were used on them and their fingers were amputated at birth. Why do they think that it's ok for the poor dogs!!!

12th November 2016 by J Fitzgibbon

What kind of country is Scotland? How can the people sit back and allow the government to legislate cruelty to animals? Disgusting and disappointing. Would have expected better!!!

16th November 2016 by David Mackenzie

I think there is too much negativity on the working dog tail docking issue and more than likely most of the negative comments come from those who no little about the life of a working dog ! It's cruel to watch a dog in pain long term rather than a short painless procedure to resolve this nonsense.

17th November 2016 by Jacqueline murray


19th November 2016 by David Thomson

SNP CLAIMED The people are soverign and they believed them and voted them to power only to be trodden on and walked over. The public want these devises removed and the tails to stay which part dont SNP understand.

19th November 2016 by William miller

They should dock there expenses instead snp clowns

20th November 2016 by Paul Morrison

Please withdraw the intent to use shock collars and tail docking, both procedures cause pain and distress to a dog. Reintroduction of these practices is a huge step backwards. I for one will sign any petition that is started.

21st November 2016 by Yvonne

Yet another seriously bad decision from SNP...Best them out..cruel unfeeling egotistical morons..They should be charged with animal cruelty...pure evil...

21st November 2016 by Denis bray

Dog tail docking - i'm a new member - just joined today but i have a lot to say on this subject.

21st November 2016 by Denis bray

Right lets begin - i've owned dogs for over 50 years - mostly traditionally docked breeds. As the law stood before the ill-informed got involved listening to the SRPCA and other animal rights people the docking procedure had to be done before the puppies were 3 days old. I'm not a dod breeder but as a favour to a friend of mine i took a litter of 11 rottie pups to a local vet to have then docked - the whole procedure took 15 mins and that was removing dew claws as well which are totallt useless and dagerous to dogs. In their wisdom the scottish parliament imposed a total ban on both procedures. How many MSP had actually ever owned a dog - less than 7% - how many people have actually witnessed a vet doing the procedure ? Very few - those 11 puppies i mentioned were all done without squealing and no blood was evident - all in less than 15 mins.Before the sct was passed i and hundreds of dog owners collected over 500,000 signatures and gave the petion to the scottish parliament - to no avail - how can a person vote to ban a procedure they know sodall about. By listening to propoganda - many breeders of traditionally docked dog were so dismayed the stopped breeding their dogs many of which were champions at shows - this was a massive loss to the best genes in the dog word in britain. The talk about cruelty etc is a load of absolute rubbish - i have seen docking done close up and in now way is it cruel. Many sporting gundogs retrieving shot birds and other game have to negotiate fences and thick undergrowth to get their quarry - resulting in tail damage - nobody gave a thought to that one. Dew claws still intact can inflict serious injury to a dog running through long grass.At the time the act was passed by the ill-informed i said at the time it was written on paper - not carved in stone and you know what paper can be used for. I am so delighted that common sense has prevailed and as i'm an old man now i wish every success to younger breeders trying to improve the standards of docked breeds because so much has been lost due to ignorance that took generations to make british dogs the best in the world.

20th December 2016 by arnie wilson

Any tail I docked on terrier pups were carried out by way of a band put around the tail and as the pup grew the tail withered off as the blood supply was cut off from tail a painless procedure

13th January 2017 by Kev

I totally agree to have them docked , this is a must!! All the anti dockers will be moaning about something else next week ,probably never had a dog certainly not a dog that has actually worked and I mean worked .dogs do the job with so much natural ability and a motivation that cannot be stopped , tail wagging is a huge part of a dogs day so when you combine all of the above on a days work that tail will feel it , besides it stops the coffee cups getting swiped of the table !!