Our policies

Tail docking in dogs

What's the issue?

Tail docking is the removal of a dog’s tail in part or whole for cosmetic reasons or to prevent possible injury. 

It is an outdated practice that involves cutting or crushing muscle, nerves, and bone without anaesthetic in puppies under 5 days old. Evidence indicates that it inflicts significant pain on puppies and deprives dogs of an important form of canine expression in future life. In addition, poorly performed docking can cause chronic pain.

Tail docking is considered to be a mutilation under UK law. The practice is illegal in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, there are some exemptions, such as removal of the tail by a vet for medical reasons or for certain breeds of working dogs. 

By law, owners are not allowed to show dogs docked in dog shows where the public pay to enter, unless they are demonstrating working ability.

In 2017, Scotland reversed a decade-old ban on tail docking for some breeds of puppy if there is sufficient evidence that they will become working dog, despite concerns raised by veterinary and animal welfare organisations.

What's our view?

Tail docking should be banned as a procedure for all breeds of dogs, unless it is carried out by a veterinary surgeon for medical reasons (eg injury). 

Puppies suffer unnecessary pain as a result of tail docking and are deprived of a vital form of canine expression in later life. Research published in Vet Record found that approximately 500 dogs would need to be docked in order to prevent a single tail injury.

We continue to call for a complete ban on tail docking of puppies for non-therapeutic reasons across the UK.

Tail docking of dogs policy statement

Tail docking policy statement (142 KB PDF)

Get involved


Veterinary surgeons act (1966) guidance on tail docking.

Read the guidance

Government legislation

Have a look at relevant legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Animal Welfare Foundation

AWF leaflet on The practical and legal approach to the docked puppy.

Tail docking AWF leaflet