1 March 2005

March 2005 CAMPAIGN UPDATE

The Animal Welfare Bill

In November last year, the Government announced in the Queen’s Speech that they would be introducing an Animal Welfare Bill. This sounded the signal for the CDB to mount once again a concerted defence of docking. So far the Animal Welfare Bill has not been introduced into Parliament. If as expected the Government intends to hold a spring General Election, it is now unlikely that the Bill would have sufficient time to clear all the necessary stages in both the Commons and the Lords before Parliament is dissolved.

But that does not mean docking is safe. If the Labour Party is re-elected and forms the next Government, it is likely that its agenda for legislation will once more include an Animal Welfare Bill.

What does the Bill say about docking?

In 2004 the Government published a Draft version of its proposed Bill. This indicated that there would be a ban on so-called ‘mutilations’. These were not defined, but it was made clear that docking would be included amongst them. The Draft Bill also proposed that some ‘mutilations’ would be exempt from a ban. So far as docking was concerned, the Government signalled that the docking of ‘Working dogs’ would be permitted, but that ‘cosmetic’ docking would not. The Government did not make it clear how it intended vets to distinguish between what was permitted and what was not.

What has the CDB done about the proposed Bill?

The CDB responded to the consultation which followed publication of the Draft Bill. The CDB:

 

  • Registered its total opposition to a ban on the docking of dogs’ tails and said that it does not believe sufficient case has been made for such a ban

 

  • Welcomed exemptions to a ban, but pointed out that that the Government’s acceptance of the case for such exceptions underlines the weakness of its case for a ban in the first instance

 

  • Pointed out the inconsistency of allowing exceptions to a ban on docking in the case of farm animals whilst imposing a ban on the docking of dogs

 

  • Questioned the validity of the Government’s claim that the sporting shooting organisations would welcome a ban on ‘cosmetic’ docking

 

  • Pointed out the adverse consequences to the customarily docked breeds of a docking ban

 

  • Urged an alternative regulation of docking which allows it to be permitted provided that it is carried out by veterinary surgeons who have reason to believe that they are acting in the best future welfare interests of the dog

 

  • Welcomed the Government’s view that the resolution on harmful characteristics within the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals is flawed and that it is not presently a suitable basis for legislation

 

  • Expressed strong concern about the powers of Inspectors appointed under the proposed new law

 

The EFRA Committee

The House of Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee examined the Draft Bill which had been prepared by DEFRA officials. They sought opinion on it from a wide range of sources. The Committee recognised that docking was a controversial issue within the Bill, and the CDB Secretary and Treasurer were invited by the Committee to give evidence in person. This they did.

When the Committee published its findings in December, it confirmed its support for a ban, but with exemptions for ‘working dogs’. Again, CDB responded to the Committee’s final report, citing a full veterinary appraisal of the issue of pain in newly born puppies.

What about Scotland ?

When the Scottish Executive launched its own animal welfare consultation in 2004, the CDB attended the public meeting which it arranged to discuss the docking issue. The CDB responded in detail to the Scottish Executive’s consultation, just as it had to the consultation in England and Wales . So far, the Scottish Executive has yet to publish any proposals for legislation that would affect docking.

Is the CDB a lone voice?

No. We have welcomed the fact that the Kennel Club has highlighted its defence of docking, and we are now working closely with them. The CDB will continue to support and endorse the KC’s programme of activity. And we will help ensure that docking remains high on the agenda in the KC’s political work over a future Animal Welfare Bill.

Is the CDB continuing to make its voice heard?

Yes. Earlier this year the CDB launched a campaign of hard-hitting advertisements in the Parliamentary media. Our advertisements have highlighted the inconsistencies of allowing the docking of some dogs, but not allowing the docking of others. It asked the question: If docking some puppies is acceptable in animal welfare terms, then what’s the big deal about docking the others?

Our advertising was carried by all the delegate packs for the Spring conferences of the three main political parties. Further advertising is planned if and when the Animal Welfare Bill is launched.

What can you do to help?

Many CDB members have already responded to our request that they should write to their MPs. This will be even more vital should a Bill be launched by the Government – probably after the Election – and docking once more becomes a ‘live’ issue. You can write to your MP at The House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. You can also visit your MP in person at one of their regular constituency surgeries. Please keep the CDB informed of any response you get to your letter.