From 2007, tail docking was banned in England and Wales, however certain dogs remained exempt, meaning they can still be docked legally. These exemptions make enforcing the tail docking law more difficult, it also makes things a little unclear for owners – just like the Dangerous Dogs Act.
In the UK, only a veterinary surgeon is lawfully able to carry out the docking procedure. The problem with tail docking is that breeders often illegally carry out the procedure to make puppies ‘fashionable’.
A new scheme is being introduced to vets to help tackle illegal docking however, ‘The Practical and Legal Approach to the Docked Puppy’ should help clamp down on rogue breeders, educate dog owners and give vets a simply guide on what to do if they are presented with a docked puppy.
Which Dogs are Eligible to Be Docked?
Firstly, which breeds are exempt from the docking law?
- Hunt point retrieve breeds of any type or combination
- Spaniels of any type or combination
- Terriers of any type or combination
However, dogs of these breeds can only be docked if they are going to be used as working dogs.
It is the responsibility of the vet to check that the owner of the dog has sufficient evidence that the dog will be engaging in one of the following types of work:
- Law enforcement
- Activities in the Armed Forces
- Emergency Rescue
- Pest Control
- Gamekeeping (e.g. retrieving during shoots)
If a puppy is one of the above breeds and is going to be used in one of the above fields of work, they are eligible to be docked by a veterinary professional. If an owner wishes to have the tail of their puppy docked they must be able to provide evidence that the dog will be worked in one of the above professions.
Before the docking procedure takes place, both the owner and the vet must sign a legal document – this document can only be signed if the vet sees:
- The mother of the puppy to be docked (to prove breed)
- A declaration from the owner (supplied by the vet) confirming they are the owner, the information they are provided is true and legal, etc.
- Evidence that the dog is to be worked in one of the above professions (for example; police identification, proof of workplace, a firearm license, etc.)
If all the above criteria are met (breed, profession, evidence) the puppy must first be microchipped before they can be docked – after the microchipping, the vet and the owner of the puppy complete a certificate that legally authorises the docking of the tail.
An example of the certificate that must be completed by both the vet and the owner can be seen here.
This process ensures that tail docking is only carried out when necessary to protect the dog during work – but it doesn’t stop people docking tail illegally. What is being done about that?
What are Vets Doing to Clamp Down on Illegal Docking?
If you have bought a puppy whose tail has been docked – you are not liable for prosecution and should help your vet as much as possible.
It is the breeder and the person who docked the puppy’s tail that are liable – if you present your puppy to the vet they may ask you for the details of the breeder and/or the person who docked the tail. Again you should not be concern as you are not liable, your help could be vital in reducing the illegal docking of tails.
If you give the breeder’s details to the vet (unfortunately the owner of a docked puppy is not obliged to pass on these details), they may then pass them on to a local authority, the police or the RSPCA.
If you are the breeder of a puppy that has been docked – you are liable for prosecution. If you present this puppy at the vets, they are not obliged to report this illegal activity, but will likely contact the relevant authorities to ensure this illegal docking ceases.
If you want to know more, you can see the advice given by BVA AWF to veterinarians here.
Your thoughts on Twitter:
What are your opinions on tail docking? Do you think it should be banned outright or is it still a viable procedure for working dogs? If you were a vet (or are!) what would you do if presented with a docked puppy? As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave them in the comments below.