Tail Docking

Overview

The docking of dog’s tails is a practice which has been carried out for centuries in order to avoid tail damage, for hygiene and other reasons.

Prophylactic docking: is the removal of the tails from litters of puppies of less than 5 days old to prevent damage later in-life as a direct consequence of the type of work this type/breed of dog is recognised and required to carry out.

Therapeutic docking: is the removal of a diseased or damaged tail from a dog of any age for clinical reasons. Often needed for complete tail paralysis, tail tumours and other medical reasons. Carried out under general anaesthetic..

There are over fifty breeds of dog, which have had their tails docked, since the inception of the breed. The reasons for docking working gundog and terrier breeds is well documented, for others; the reasons have been lost over the fullness of time.

Tails are normally docked at 2 to 5 days of age without anaesthetic being used. When carried out correctly, the procedure causes no more than momentary discomfort since the puppy does not have a fully developed nervous system. When the pup is placed back with its littermates, it quickly falls asleep or starts feeding from the bitch. This is in contrast to a puppy in pain that would exhibit continuous crying, restlessness, crawl around in pointless circles and fail to suckle. The older the animal, the larger the tail, and therefore the more traumatic the procedure becomes.

If the puppy is more than 5 days old, the procedure should only be performed under anaesthesia, preferably not before 8 weeks of age. Many undocked adult animals undergo the tail docking procedure out of necessity when their tail has been traumatised, but this is considered a tail amputation, not a tail dock.

Tail Docking in the UK

In recent years laws have been introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland restricting tail docking of dogs and in Scotland an outright ban on tail docking is currently in place.

Use the links below to find out the law in your country on permitted tail docking procedures and on showing docked dogs.

Tail docking of dogs in England – an overview

Defra launched a public consultation in January 2002 on reviewing the existing animal welfare legislation. It was accepted that the Protection of Animals Act 1911 was outdated and needed enhancing according to modern day good practice and advances in veterinary science. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 came into force on 6th April 2007.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006, which contains a general ban on the tail docking of dogs, and the limited exemptions to it, applies to England and Wales only. However, regulations detailing how working dogs are identified and certificated have been made separately in the two countries and differ in certain details. The following information relates to England only.

Exemptions for working dogs in England

There are exemptions from the ban for certain types of working dog, or where docking is performed for medical treatment. The exemption allows certain types of working dog to have their tails docked by a veterinary surgeon. The dog has to be no more than 5 days old and the veterinary surgeon must certify that he or she has seen evidence that the dog is likely to work in one of the specified areas.

Click here to download a sample tail docking certificate

In England, any spaniel, terrier, hunt point retrieve breed or their crosses can be docked (as long as the necessary evidence indicating that they are likely to work is produced). Owners and keepers wishing to have a working dog’s tail docked must ensure that this is undertaken in accordance with the law. The docked dog will also have to be micro-chipped before it is 3 months of age. If you get the dog before it is 3 months old, we would encourage you to make sure that it is micro-chipped before taking ownership and that the certificate has been completed in all parts. Veterinary surgeons are the only persons who are allowed to decide that a dog may have its tail docked.

Evidence required in the support of legal tail docking

The puppy must be presented with the dam, and a statement provided by the owner (or the owner’s representative) that the dog is intended to work in one of the specified areas below. Additional evidence related to the particular type of work the dog will perform is also required. It is crucial that members take all available paperwork with them when they go to the vet, including printouts of the document below together with the proofs of working status etc.

(a) law enforcement,
(b) activities of Her Majesty’s armed forces,
(c) emergency rescue,
(d) lawful pest control, or
(e) the lawful shooting of animals

Additional evidence

A current shotgun or firearm certificate issued to the owner of the dog, or to the agent or employee of the owner most likely to be using the dog for work in connection with the lawful shooting of animals OR

A letter from a gamekeeper, a land occupier (or his agent), a person with shooting rights, a shoot organiser, a club official, or a person engaged in lawful pest control, stating that the breeder of the dog whose tail is to be docked is known to him and that dogs bred by that breeder have been used (as the case may be) on his land, or in his shoot, or for pest control.

Must a vet dock a working dog’s tail if asked to do so?

No – the decision is discretionary. The legislation does not require a vet to dock an eligible dog’s tail.

Click here to view the current RCVS advice to vets on tail docking

The law on showing docked dogs in England

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 6 April 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in England for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 6 April 2007 may not be shown at any shows in England where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place. However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

The law on showing docked dogs in Wales

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 28 March 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in Wales for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 28 March 2007 may not be shown at any shows in Wales where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

The law on showing docked dogs in Northern Ireland

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 1 January 2013 may continue to be shown at all shows in Northern Ireland for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 1 January 2013 may not be shown at any shows in Northern Ireland where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

The law on showing docked dogs in Scotland

Any dogs whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland or abroad may continue to be shown at any show in Scotland.

Find out more

Click here for more information on the Defra website

Tail docking of dogs in Northern Ireland – an overview

Following a consultation in 2012 on tail docking with effect from 1st January 2013, under the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, it will be illegal to dock the tail of any dog in Northern Ireland or to take a dog elsewhere to be docked.

 

Exemption for working dogs in Northern Ireland

There are exceptions with regard to the following working dog breeds; spaniels, terriers and any other breeds used for hunting, pointing or retrieving, or any combination of these breeds.

It is not an offence for:

  • a veterinary surgeon to dock a dog’s tail for the purpose of medical treatment; or,
  • an individual to dock a dog’s tail for the purpose of saving a dog’s life (where it is not reasonably practical for the procedure to be carried out by a veterinary surgeon).

Evidence required in support of legal tail docking

A veterinary surgeon will require evidence to be provided by the owner or a representative of the owner. The veterinary surgeon may then dock a dog of the relevant breed not more than 5 days old. The evidence required is:

a) The dam of the dog, or a veterinary certificate if the dam has died since whelping,

b) A completed statement (section 1 of the tail docking certificate), signed and dated from the owner of the dog or their representative (A certificate is included in the schedule of the regulations and can be downloaded below);

 

 

and

c) One of the following:

i. police identification,
ii. prison service identification,
iii. HMRC identification,
iv. Evidence that the owner or agent or employee of the owner most likely to be using the dog will be using the dog for lawful pest control,
v. A current firearm certificate issued to the owner of the dog or to the agent or employee of the owner most likely to be using the dog for work in connection with the lawful shooting of animals,
vi. A letter from

aa) a gamekeeper;
bb) a land occupier (or their agent);
cc) a person with shooting rights;
dd) a shoot organiser;
ee) a club official; or
ff) a person engaged in lawful pest control,

stating that the breeder of the dog whose tail is to be docked is known to him or her and that the dogs bred by that breeder have been used on his or her land, on his or her shoot or for pest control.

It is important to make sure that you take all the evidence with you when you visit the vet. Upon receiving the evidence the veterinary surgeon will complete section 2 of the tail docking certificate.

 

Micro-chipping

Dogs which have been docked must be micro-chipped before the dog is 8 weeks old at the same veterinary practice which carried out the tail docking procedure. If the veterinary practice has ceased to operate, the dog may be taken to another practice and the reason for the change in practice must be recorded on the certificate. The owner or representative of the owner must sign and date the section 3 of the tail docking certificate before the dog is micro-chipped. Section 4 of the certificate is completed by the veterinary surgeon.

 

Showing of dogs with docked tails

The law on showing docked dogs in England

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 6 April 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in England for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 6 April 2007 may not be shown at any shows in England where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Wales

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 28 March 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in Wales for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 28 March 2007 may not be shown at any shows in Wales where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Northern Ireland

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 1 January 2013 may continue to be shown at all shows in Northern Ireland for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 1 January 2013 may not be shown at any shows in Northern Ireland where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Scotland

Although tail docking is banned in Scotland any dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland or abroad may continue to be shown at any show in Scotland.

 

Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

Animal Welfare (Northern Ireland) Act 2011

 

Click below for the Welfare of Animals (Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.
NI Docking of Working Dogs Tails Regulations

Tail docking of dogs in Scotland – an overview

The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 includes a total ban on all non-therapeutic tail docking of dogs. Section 20 of the Act makes it an offence to perform a procedure on an animal which interferes with its the bone structure or sensitive tissue, unless it is a medical procedure or the procedure has been specifically exempted by Regulations made by Scottish Ministers.

The Regulations do not allow for prophylactic tail docking of any dog therefore it is currently an offence for anyone, including veterinary surgeons, to dock the tails of puppies. It is also an offence to take a dog from Scotland for the purpose of having its tail docked, although a pregnant bitch could be taken out of Scotland and the puppies could then be docked under the English exemption.

 

Campaigning to overturn the tail docking ban

BASC Scotland, and other organisations, have been lobbying Scottish Government to overturn this ban. This has not yet been successful, but soon to be published research undertaken by the University of Glasgow should support the argument that prophylactic tail docking is indeed beneficial. This research is expected to be published by the middle of 2013.

 

Law on showing docked dogs

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 6 April 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in England for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 6 April 2007 may not be shown at any shows in England where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Wales

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 28 March 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in Wales for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 28 March 2007 may not be shown at any shows in Wales where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Northern Ireland

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 1 January 2013 may continue to be shown at all shows in Northern Ireland for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 1 January 2013 may not be shown at any shows in Northern Ireland where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Scotland

Although tail docking is banned in Scotland any dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland or abroad may continue to be shown at any show in Scotland.

 

Find out more

Click here for an overview of animal welfare law in Scotland

Tail docking of dogs in Wales – an overview

Defra launched a public consultation in January 2002 on reviewing existing animal welfare legislation. It was accepted that the Protection of Animals Act 1911 was outdated and needed enhancing according to modern day good practice and advances in veterinary science. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 came into force on 6th April 2007.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006, which contains a general ban on the tail docking of dogs, and the limited exemptions to it, applies to England and Wales only. However, regulations detailing how working dogs are identified and certificated have been made separately in the two countries and differ in certain details. The following information relates to Wales only.

 

Exemptions for working dogs in Wales.

The docking of dogs’ tails has been banned in Wales since 27 March 2007. There are exemptions from the ban for certain types of working dog. If you are the new owner or keeper of a working dog which has had its tail docked you will need to make sure that this had been done in accordance with the new regulations.

The exemption allows certain types of working dog to have their tails docked by a vet. This must be done when the dog is not more than 5 days old. If your dog has had its tail docked by a vet, the breeder or seller of the dog will have been given a certificate which they should pass on to you.

The docked dog will also have to be micro-chipped before it is 3 months of age. If you get the dog before it is 3 months old, we would encourage you to make sure that it is micro-chipped before taking ownership and that the certificate has been completed in all parts. Veterinary surgeons are the only persons who are allowed to decide that a dog may have its tail docked.

The dog will have to be of a certain type in order to be docked. They are:

  • Spaniels – English Springer Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel Cocker Spaniel, but not any combinations of breeds
  • Terriers – Jack Russell Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Lakeland Terrier Norfolk Terrier but not any combinations of breeds
  • Hunt Point Retrieve – Braque Italian, Brittany, German Long Haired Pointer, German Short-Haired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Hungarian Vizsla, Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla, Italian Spinone, Spanish Water Dog, Weinmaraner, Korthals Griffon, Slovakian Rough Haired Pointer, Large Munsterlander, Small Munsterlander

 

Evidence required in the support of legal tail docking

The puppy must be presented with the dam, and a statement provided by the owner (or the owner’s representative) that the dog is intended to work in one of the specified areas below. Additional evidence related to the particular type of work the dog will perform is also required. It is crucial that members take all available paperwork with them when they go to the vet, including printouts of the document below together with the proofs of working status etc.

(a) law enforcement,
(b) activities of Her Majesty’s armed forces,
(c) emergency rescue,
(d) lawful pest control, or
(e) the lawful shooting of animals.

Additional evidence

A current shotgun or firearm certificate issued to the owner of the dog, or to the agent or employee of the owner most likely to be using the dog for work in connection with the lawful shooting of animals OR

A letter from a gamekeeper, a land occupier (or his agent), a person with shooting rights, a shoot organiser, a club official, or a person engaged in lawful pest control, stating that the breeder of the dog whose tail is to be docked is known to him and that dogs bred by that breeder have been used (as the case may be) on his land, or in his shoot, or for pest control.

Must a vet dock a working dog’s tail if asked to do so?

No – the decision is discretionary. The legislation does not require a vet to dock an eligible dog’s tail.

Click here to view the current RCVS advice to vets on tail docking

 

The law on showing docked dogs in England

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 6 April 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in England for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 6 April 2007 may not be shown at any shows in England where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place. However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Wales

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 28 March 2007 may continue to be shown at all shows in Wales for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 28 March 2007 may not be shown at any shows in Wales where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Northern Ireland

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed before 1 January 2013 may continue to be shown at all shows in Northern Ireland for the remainder of its natural life.

A dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed on or after 1 January 2013 may not be shown at any shows in Northern Ireland where the public are charged a fee for admission, irrespective of where the procedure took place.

However a dog whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally may be shown at an event where the public are charged a fee but only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability and not for the conformity to a standard.

 

The law on showing docked dogs in Scotland

Any dogs whose tail has been wholly or partly removed legally in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland or abroad may continue to be shown at any show in Scotland.

Find out more

Click here for more information on the Defra website

Image by Perthshire Picture Agency

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