I heard a joke recently about a man who took his dog to the vet to get his tail amputated. This was so that his mother in law had no indication that she was liked in their household! Ha ha right? Well, jokes aside, it made me think about the fact that people really do get their dog’s tails amputated!
I am an animal lover and I cannot see any reason to do it. It’s part of the animal and causes no harm. So I thought that there may be more to it and that I should check it out before forming a real judgement on it.
Here’s what I found out from the The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). WSAVA is an International Veterinary organisation with a commitment to the welfare of animals. The WSAVA’s 55,000 members are drawn from 57 companion animal veterinary associations in 50 countries of the world.
This is the text that was unanimously endorsed by the WSAVA Assembly at its meeting in August 2001.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s position on tail docking
· The WSAVA considers amputation of dogs’ tails to be an unnecessary surgical procedure and contrary to the welfare of the dog.
· The WSAVA recommends that all canine organisations phase out any recommendations for tail amputation (docking) from their breed standards.
· The WSAVA recommends that the docking of dogs’ tails be made illegal except for professionally diagnosed therapeutic reasons, and only then by suitably qualified persons, such as registered veterinarians, under conditions of anaesthesia that minimise pain and stress.
What is tail docking?
Tail docking today is the amputation of a dog’s tail at varying lengths to suit the recommendations of a breed Standard. Docking involves the amputation of the puppy’s tail either with scissors, a knife or with a rubber band. The cut goes through many highly sensitive nerves in the tissues including skin, cartilage, and bone. This procedure is usually performed without any anaesthetic at between three to five days of age. The procedure can be performed by either a registered veterinary surgeon or by an experienced dog breeder. In many countries veterinarians are declining to perform this unnecessary procedure, meaning that breeders are now docking more dogs.
Is tail docking painful for the puppy?
Yes, there is strong evidence that this is the case. The puppy has a fully developed nervous system and a well-developed sense of pain. While the puppy cannot tell us that it is in pain, many biological markers show that pain is occurring.
Why did tail docking start?
The practice of tail dockïng started hundreds of years ago, when people were far more complacent about the welfare of animals than they are today and it became common in the Middle Ages in Britain and Western Europe. Many theories have been proposed for the beginning of the practice; these include Tax evasion, Rabies prevention, prevention of back injury, increase of speed for the docked dog as well a method of prevention of tail damage due to fighting. Some breeds of dog and cat are born without tails or with stumpy short tails due to a genetic abnormality similar to Spina Bifida in humans. Normal littermates of these breeds were usually docked to make the breed conform to a uniform appearance. Welsh Corgis are a good example. The Pembroke Corgi is occasionally born without a tail or with a short stumpy tail and littermates are usually docked. The Cardigan Corgi on the other hand has a long bushy tail and the different requirements have been written into breed standards with time.
Does tail docking prevent tail injuries?
Traditionally, some breeders considered docked tails necessary, to fulfil the working function of the dog. Today many working breeds of dog are kept as house-pets. When tails are allowed to remain intact, there are no more tail injuries in breeds that are customarily docked than in other breeds of dog.
Can docking cause problems in later life?
There is considerable scientific evidence that docking can lead to complications, including occasionally death of the puppy. In later life the stump of the tail may be painful due to the formation of neuroma (nerve tissue scar) in the stump. This also occurs following amputation of limbs in people and causes considerable discomfort.
Do dogs need their tails?
Dogs have evolved into their current shape over many thousands of years. If a tail were not useful to a dog, natural selection would have eliminated it long ago. Indeed, tails have many useful functions and are important for balance and body language among other things.
Some breeds today have individuals that are occasionally born with deformed or short tails. This is a genetic abnormality, not usually found in the wild and is caused by intensive inbreeding of selected strains of dog to refine certain inherited characteristics.
Have any countries banned tail docking?
Yes, there are countries, which have banned cosmetic tail docking for a considerable number of years; Norway since 1987 and Sweden and Switzerland since 1988. Since 1991, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg have also introduced a ban. Tail docking has been banned in Finland since 1996 and Germany since May 1998. Political pressure was exerted in Germany to have hunting breeds exempted, however exempted puppies must be the offspring of parents that were specifically used as hunting dogs, not just hunting breeds. In spite of many claims to the contrary, there is no proof that an increase in tail injuries or serious health problems occurred as a result of the ban on tail docking in these countries.
In England, since July 1993, only registered veterinarians can perform tail docking. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has declared that the docking of tails, other than for therapeutic or prophylactic reasons, was unethical. The RCVS stated in 1996, that such docking is capable of amounting to conduct disgraceful in a professional respect, and described such docking as unacceptable mutilation.
In Australia, one State, the Australian Capitol Territory has banned tail docking. It is hoped that other States will follow this example.
Don’t you think that long-tailed Spaniels, Boxers and Rottweilers would look stupid?
Certainly not! In fact once people get used to seeing dogs with their normal tails, they cannot understand why the tails of these breeds were ever amputated in the first place. Try to imagine if the reverse happened, and breeds such as Labrador retrievers were docked. They too would look strange and you would wonder why the procedure was done.
Do vets enjoy amputating puppy’s tails?
No. The majority of veterinarians, through the WSAVA, condemn the practice. Many veterinarians refuse to amputate tails because of welfare reasons. Others refuse to perform the procedure because it is totally unnecessary and can lead to complications, such as haemorrhage, infection and even death. Some veterinarians continue perform tail amputation reluctantly in order to keep the procedure under professional supervision, please their clients and to minimise the suffering caused to the pups. If it were illegal, they would not be placed into this compromising position.
What can I do to prevent tail docking?
· Do not buy puppies without tails.
· Insist that the breeder from whom you buy your dog does not dock tails.
· Demand that your kennel club or canine organisation stops advocating docking in any form and starts promoting the showing of intact dog. Public demand will quickly make complete natural-tailed dogs popular.
· Most importantly, please take action to make tail docking illegal for anything but medically justified reasons. Contact your local Member of Parliament or responsible Government official and ask him/her to support a ban of dog tail amputation and to modify the Animal Welfare legislation in your country to make the practice illegal. You will find more material and a model letter from WSAVA’s web page www.wsava.org. Politically, each letter from a concerned citizen is counted as representing 100 votes. So every letter counts!