Recent Arguments for banning docking demolished

from the CDB Veterinary Advisor, Joseph Holmes MRCVS

1 - As any dog owner will know, dogs use their tails to communicate.

Incorrect. Dogs communicate primarily by scent, then body language. When two dogs meet for the first time, they usually side up to each other head to tail and hackles raised. They each smell the other's scent glands underneath the tail The scent is used to communicate the individual's identity and it coats each stool as it is passed. When one dog smells another dog's stool, it is actually smelling the scent gland secretion. Similar personal identity information is passed from dog to dog through
"cocking the leg" and urinating on lamp posts / trees etc.


If, as they allege, the tail is a critical means of communication between dogs, one would naturally expect that docked dogs would experience more physical attacks from undocked dogs than if they were undocked. My clinical records over thirty years in veterinary practice shows that such socialisation disadvantage simply does not occur in docked dogs. I do not think you would get a single vet in the UK who would confirm that docked dogs are more prone to assault than undocked dogs.

2 - The result is that docked dogs show unwarranted aggression towards other dogs and humans.

Incorrect. This is pure speculation and unconfirmed by my clinical experience or any recognised scientific research.

3 -  The tail is also important as a means of counterbalancing, especially if a dog wants to do something such as leap across a gap or walk along the edge of a canal.

Incorrect. If this statement was true, we would have had many cases of imbalance over the years in thousands of docked dogs. None has been identified or recorded by the veterinary profession. Docking does not affect the dog's balance at all, either during cornering or leaping. Furthermore, naturally docked breeds, such as the Bulldog and Boston Terrier, would be notorious for falling over at corners or during jumping.

The initial process of tail docking is painful

Incorrect. I quote from the UK Government Animal Welfare Bill, Regulatory Impact Assessment note:
"Scientists from across the globe agree that tail docking does not cause pain as research distinguishes between groups of new born animals, including dogs, and confirms that they are relatively immature at birth and up to around two weeks of age, and so cannot feel the same degree of pain as human babies, lambs and calves. Therefore, it seems unnecessary to amend current
legislation".

Mr. John Bower MRCVS has stated in his ANTI-docking written submission to the Scottish Parliamentary Environment and Rural Affairs Committee,
 
"Pain is possibly the least powerful argument as it is so slight".
 
The Robert Wansbrough, (an Australian veterinary surgeon), Report presented proudly on the Alliance Against Docking website, states at the outset,
 
 "There have been no scientific studies or double blind trials conducted to compare the effects of tail docking in one sample of dogs with a similar sample of undocked dogs. Similarly, there have been no studies to measure the initial pain and the ongoing pathological pain inflicted on docked dogs".

3 - I have heard gruesome tales from experienced vets who have had to clear up the mess when tail docking has gone terribly wrong

Hearsay and unsubstantiated. The vast majority, if not all, tail docking that has gone "terribly wrong" has been carried out illegally by unqualified lay people. If vets are prevented by law from clinical docking, the incidence of illegal docking "gone wrong" may well increase.

4 - Docking is a mutilation

I quote from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website:

"The reconvened Working Party confirmed that, although the term 'mutilation' was an emotive one, carrying with it, in common usage, implications of maiming and disfigurement, there was no satisfactory alternative term which would suffice for its purposes. Accordingly, it was agreed to continue to make reference to mutilations on the understanding that the term should be understood
as covering all procedures, carried out with or without instruments, which involve interference with the sensitive tissues or the bone structure of an animal, and are carried out for non-therapeutic reasons".

There is a much less emotive and more accurate alternative to "mutilation" when applied to docking, namely "Non -therapeutic Operation", i.e. an operation performed for any reason other than to treat illness or injury.

The definition of "mutilation" in bold letters also applies equally to most dog breeding for cosmetic reasons e.g. Pekingese or bulldog. These are (genetic) procedures, carried out without instruments, which involve interference with the sensitive tissues or the bone structure of an animal, and are carried out for non-therapeutic reasons".

If the RCVS definition is used to ban docking, then it must also ban certain dog breeds that arise from genetic "mutilation". The definition is therefore ill-considered and  inappropriate.

Tail docking is simply not a mutilation by any universally accepted definition of the word.