EGM 2007

CDB Annual/Emergency General Meeting 2007

President’s Address

When I addressed this meeting last year, the prospect of our being able to retain the right for all dog breeders to continue having their litters legally docked by their veterinary surgeon appeared to be bleak.

The Government published the Animal Welfare Bill in 2005. Significantly, docking was not mentioned in the Bill. Neither was it mentioned in the explanatory notes which accompany the Bill. However, in the Regulatory Impact Assessment, the Government addressed the issue of docking with the following crucial sentence: “Sincere views were held by those who both support and oppose a ban on cosmetic docking and our preference is that there should continue to be freedom of choice.”

In other words, the Government no longer appeared to support a ban at that stage. Indeed, it accepted the principle upon which the CDB was founded, namely that freedom to choose should rest with the breeder and his or her vet.

But there was a catch. While the Government did not wish to change the status quo, it said that this is a matter which Parliament must properly decide. In other words, Parliament would be asked to vote on whether docking of dogs’ tails should continue.

Two years ago, we embarked on our final effort to raise support from our grass roots members with our last chance lobbying exercise. We urged members, clubs and vets to write to their MP again or for the first time. We urged local breed clubs and societies to organise lobbying visits to their MP’s surgery, so that small delegations could talk to their MP face to face.

All we asked our members to do was to urge their MP to support freedom of choice which we backed up with many full page colour advertisements in the Parliamentary media and submissions to MPs and the EFRA Select Committee.

By January 2006, it became obvious that our efforts were falling on deaf ears. MPs debating the tail docking issue during the Committee stage of the Bill, displayed a total lack of impartiality and ignorance to the DEFRA conclusions after over three years of consulting on the subject. After that debate, we also slammed the rapid about-turn on the subject by Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw. Mr Bradshaw didn’t even so much as set out the case for freedom of choice, let alone argue in favour of it. He simply capitulated to ignorance and prejudice.

At the same time, the Countryside Alliance and BASC publicly split with the CDB by advocating its support for a working dog only exemption. We pointed out the difficulty in framing a partial ban, and in particular the huge problem which would exist for veterinary surgeons in being able to verify that particular litters – much less particular pups within a litter – were indeed destined for work. And with this in mind we naturally pointed out that if docking some pups within a litter was acceptable in animal welfare terms, then what on earth was the problem in docking the remainder?

Our efforts were in vain as when the Commons third reading of the Animal Welfare Bill took place, MPs voted in favour of a ban on tail docking with an exemption for certain working dogs. A better result than a total ban some might say, but failure to retain the CDB preference, the status quo.

The Animal Welfare Bill and our lobbying efforts then moved to the House of Lords. The CDB rapidly produced a dossier to be sent to each of the Lords and encouraged all of our supporters to lobby the Lords as well. Tail Docking was "debated" in the Grand Committee for just 30 minutes. The outcome was that there should be no changes to the Bill as proposed by the Commons so far as tail docking is concerned.

It would appear that the lobbying machine of the Countryside Alliance (CA) and BASC who had been encouraging MP's to save docking for working dogs at the expense of show dogs, had won the day. In early 2006 we were surprised at receiving many letters from previously supportive Conservative MP's now suggesting that they will only support docking for working dogs, describing docking of non working dogs as “the appalling act of docking for cosmetic reasons".

We have no doubt that they were heavily influenced by the Countryside Alliance and BASC, who had only supported the CDB approach when it had suited them to do so.

Both BASC and the Countryside Alliance continued to work closely with the authorities to help frame the regulations outlining the "working dog exemptions" and appeared not to have sought any advice from the veterinary surgeons whose support would be vital.

The Animal Welfare Acts came into force in Wales on 28 March 2007, England on 6 April 2007 and Scotland from 30 April 2007. Tail docking is now effectively banned. There is an exemption for certain working dogs, which only applies to those being docked in England or Wales , but vets prepared to offer the procedure are few and far between.

Having worked closely with the Kennel Club from 2004, we were disappointed in 2006 when they moved their campaigning might away from the retention of tail docking, to a ban of electric shock collars instead. Losing three major allies left the CDB in a far weaker position.

The exemptions "won" by BASC and the Countryside Alliance are unworkable as so few vets have continued to dock under its administrative requirements and continued pressure from the RCVS, who to this day, threaten to discipline innocent vets who dock within the law.

The CDB has never condoned law breaking, so sadly concludes that those UK breeders who wish to continue breeding traditionally docked breeds, should abide by the law and now leave tails undocked, or to stop breeding.

After so many years of effort, it seems that the political efforts of the RSPCA and their like, have won the day.

With the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the Animal Health and Welfare ( Scotland ) Act, the Constitutional aims of the CDB are now impossible to achieve.

Most of the veterinary surgeons who used to dock for CDB members are no longer carrying out the procedure under the new legislation which means that we are unable to help the small percentage of members who can still legally have some of their whelps docked.

It is clear that our constitutional aims cannot now be met, so the CDB has to be dissolved or the constitution changed, both of which require input from our members.

The Board met earlier this year and discussed the idea of forming a register of licensed dew claw removal lay practitioners, as dew claw removal is currently not regulated. Our past experience would have enabled us to form a register and maintain it to a high and respected standard. We also wanted to encourage reporting of future tail damage and assist with photographic evidence to enable us to lobby Government with the data at some future time and present a proposal to introduce a lay docking register based on our experience of the dew claw removal register and to get the current legislation altered.

We could do none of this without backing and assistance from members.

Unfortunately, of the 3700 invitations sent out to current & recent ex members, less than 2% bothered to reply and less than that have attended today.

I am totally disillusioned at the dismal response. The Board members have invested a huge amount of time and effort into running the CDB since its inception and each year of late, only a handful of members attend AGM’s. This continued lack of response does little to encourage me to continue offering support to the Council, if it is decided today that it should continue.

Peter Squires

President - Council of Docked Breed