Tail docking in dogs

Tail docking is the removal of some of a healthy tail of a pup. It used to be done by breeders because they thought the dogs ‘looked better’. It is an unwarranted mutilation and in the opinion of the veterinary profession should not ever be performed. The Veterinary Council of Ireland has ruled that it would be unethical for a vet to perform this procedure except where surgical amputation is required to treat an injured tail.

The legal situation is that it is specifically illegal for anyone, vets included, to perform any procedure on any animal for cosmetic reasons. Veterinary Ireland, represented by then President Alan Rossiter, lobbied for inclusion of this provision in the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 and were delighted it was accepted.

However there is currently a legal provision for vets – and only vets –  to perform tail docking under very limited circumstances, that is to say on specific breeds (e.g. Springers) and only where it is intended that the pup that is being docked is going to be used in lawful hunting of animals or pest control.

Notwithstanding the above legal allowance it is still the situation that it is unethical for a vet to dock pups as the information that is available is that the incidence and severity of tail injuries in working dogs is not high enough to warrant performing the procedure upon then to remove their tail just in case it might suffer an injury in later life. One would have to remove the tail of in the order of hundreds of pups to prevent one tail injury that required veterinary attention.

Pet owners should be aware that if their new pup has been docked it has probably been done so illegally and in this case you should immediately report this to the Gardai or, possibly more effectively, to the ISPCA who will investigate and prosecute. Reporting is the only way to ensure this barbaric procedure is eliminated.

Pet owners need to know that if they have purchased a pup that has been docked and if you did not ask for it to be docked then you have done nothing wrong – no case can nor will be taken against you. It is only the breeder and the person who performed the docking that was acting illegally.


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