Reintroduction of tail docking retrograde step for animal welfare in Scotland

23 June 2017

BVA has said its appalled at the reintroduction of tail docking in Scotland, which forces vets across the country into a lose-lose situation.

On Wednesday, SNP and Conservative MSPs voted in favour of an amendment that will see tail docking, which was outlawed in Scotland a decade ago, reintroduced for some breeds of puppy if there is sufficient evidence that they will become working dogs.

Scottish tail docking legislation will now permit the docking of tails by up to a third in spaniels and hunt point retrievers, which involves the cutting or crushing of muscle, nerves and bone without anaesthetic in puppies under 5 days old, despite evidence indicating that this out-dated practice inflicts significant pain on puppies and deprives dogs of a vital form of canine expression in future life.

Speaking at the ECCLR’s evidence session on the motion (30 May 2017) 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, which provides no means of proving that a 5 day old pup will go on to be a working dog in later life. 

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, Melissa Donald, BVA Scottish Branch President, said, “We are appalled that MSPs voted to reverse Scotland’s previously progressive stance on tail docking especially considering the evidence against this move.

"Research commissioned by the Scottish Government suggests that up to 320 spaniel puppies would need to be docked to prevent one tail amputation. The prevalence of serious tail injury simply does not justify unnecessarily submitting hundreds of puppies to this painful procedure.

“The Scottish Parliament's vote in favour of this out-dated practice amongst spaniels and hunt point retrievers marks the start of a retrograde step for animal welfare in Scotland. Now we must do all we can to work with Scottish Government to produce guidance that will support vets in the difficult decision they must make about the puppy in front of them."

BVA Media Office