ANIMAL welfare campaigners have warned against a government move to allow “puppy docking” – the controversial practice of removing the tails of young dogs.
The Scottish government is set to consult on a potential exemption in legislation that outlawed the practice nine years ago on the basis that it was cruel and unnecessary.
Many ministers remain against the practice when it is use for commercial purposes.
But they have come under fire from gamekeepers and farmers – who say the ban has led to a rise in injuries among working dogs.
Now SNP bosses are considering allow vets to dock the tails of spaniel and hunter point retriever (HPR) puppies if they judge that it will reduce their chances of injury in later life.
But animal protection charity OneKind have claimed that the move would represent a step backwards for animal rights in Scotland.
Harry Huyton, director of OneKind, said the government proposals were “hugely disappointing.”
He added: “The welfare case for allowing dogs to keep their tails is clear and we have seen no evidence to justify removing the ban.
“We know that gamekeepers have lobbied hard to be allowed to shorten spaniel’s tails so that they can work in bracken and brambles.
“But it must be asked whether mutilating young puppies and possibly leaving a lifelong legacy of pain and behavioural problems can be justified on these grounds.”
Research does show that working dogs with longer tails are more likely to injure themselves than those with docked tails.
But Huyton claims that such research does not consider the long-term pain often caused by the practice of docking.
He added: “We don’t want to see any dog suffer avoidable injury at any point in their lives.
“It is was ever proven beyond doubt that the welfare benefits of tail docking outweighed the welfare costs, we would review our policy.”
Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said that allowing docking on a select few breeds of working dogs was a “sensible step.”
He said: “The research from Glasgow University showed that 56% of spaniels in one surveyed shoot eason endured one or more tail injury. In that same season 38.5% of HPRs were injured.
“The SGA accepts some research has been done to show that working pups that have their tails shortened under anaesthetic by a vet in the first three days of their life experience some momentary ‘pain.’
“However, his cannot be compared to the lengthy suffering endured by many adult working dogs which have sustained injuries while undertaking duties in line with their breeding.”
And, he explained, the current ban meant that vets were reluctant to remove a damaged tail unless completely necessary.
He said: “This, in many cases, means months of bandages and the painful reopening of sutures as the dog wags the damaged tail or hits it off walls, tables and doors.”
The British Veterinary Association currently opposes tail docking on the grounds that it causes unnecessary pain and deprives dogs of a form of expression.