UK Tail Docking legislation as at May 2007

All UK legislation has now been passed and enacted as follows;

The docking of dogs' tails was banned in England from 6 April 2007 and in Wales from 28 March 2007 but with exemptions from the ban for certain working dogs, and for medical treatment. A total ban in Scotland took effect 30 April 2007

There is also a ban on the showing of docked dogs (all dogs docked after the commencement date of 6 April/28 March) at events to which members of the public are admitted on payment of a fee. However, this ban does not apply to dogs shown for the purpose of demonstrating their working ability.

The exemption for working dogs allows a dog that is likely to perform certain specified types of work to have its tail docked by a veterinary surgeon. The dog will have to be less than 5 days old and the veterinary surgeon will have to certify that he or she has seen specified evidence that the dog is likely to work in specified areas. Puppies being docked must be microchipped, either at the time of docking or when the vet considers they are old enough. The types of dog that are allowed to be docked and the types of evidence needed, is detailed below.

Puppies from certain working dogs may be docked if evidence is provided to the vet that it is likely to be worked in connection with law enforcement, activities of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, emergency rescue, lawful pest control, or the lawful shooting of animals.  It is accepted that in a litter, not all puppies docked will be found suitable for work.

The owner of the dog, or person representing the owner must make a signed statement that, the dam of the puppies to be docked is of a type which can be certified as set out below, the date on which the puppies were born and that it is intended that they will be used, or sold, for one of the working purposes set out in the regulations.

The vet must sign a declaration that the requirements of the regulations have been satisfied i.e. that he has been given the necessary declaration by the owner or person representing the owner and has seen the evidence required.

The vet must have a completed statement, signed and dated by the owner of the dog (or by another person whom the veterinary surgeon to whom it is presented reasonably believes to be representing the owner), made in the form set out in the regulations. The vet must see the dam of the dog and a further piece of evidence such as:

a current shotgun or firearm certificate issued to the owner of the dog, or to the agent or employee of the owner most likely to be using the dog for work in connection with the lawful shooting of animals OR

a letter from a gamekeeper, a land occupier (or his agent), a person with shooting rights, a shoot organiser, a club official, a person representing the National Working Terrier Federation, or a person engaged in lawful pest control, stating that the breeder of the dog whose tail is to be docked is known to him and that dogs bred by that breeder have been used (as the case may be) on his land, or in his shoot, or for pest control.

Although the procedure is the same, the list of dogs which can be docked are different between England and Wales. There is a total ban on docking in Scotland.

In England the following can be docked:

1.      Hunt point retrieve breeds of any type or combination of types.

2.      Spaniels of any type or combination of types.

3.      Terriers of any type or combination of types.

In Wales the following can be docked:

1.      Spaniels of the following breeds: English Springer Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel and Cocker Spaniel, but not combinations of breeds

2.      Terriers of the following breeds: Jack Russell Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Lakeland Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, but not combinations of breeds

3.      Hunt point retrievers of the following breeds:

Braque Italian, Brittany, German Long Haired Pointer, German Short Haired Pointer, German Wire Haired Pointer, Hungarian Vizsla, Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla, Italian Spinone, Spanish Water Dog, Weimaraner, Korthals Griffon, Slovakian Rough Haired Pointer, Large Munsterlander, Small Munsterlander.

It remains the prerogative of a veterinary surgeon as to whether he chooses to dock a dog’s tail or not.
Showing of Docked Dogs

A dog docked before the 28 March 2007 in Wales and 6 April 2007 in England may continue to be shown at all shows in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland throughout its natural life.

A dog docked on, or after, the above dates, irrespective of where it was docked, may not be shown at shows in England and Wales where the public is charged a fee for admission.

However, where a working dog has been docked in England and Wales under the respective regulations set out above, it may be shown where the public are charged a fee, so long as it is shown “only to demonstrate its working ability”. It will thus be necessary to show working dogs in such a way as ONLY to demonstrate their working ability and not conformity to a standard.

A dog legally docked in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or abroad may be shown at any show in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Is the BANDING of tails still legal in the UK?

A lot of breeders are under the misconception that the UK law is akin to the new docking laws in Australia. In Australia it is illegal to surgically remove the tail of as puppy so "banding" is a gray area which breeders have so far successfully defended in court. The UK Acts make it an offence "to remove the whole or any part of a dogs tail", (except for those exempt under the regulations) and our legal advisors state that both cutting and banding are covered by the ban in the main Act.

A person found guilty of an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (England) shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine not exceeding £20,000 or both

Is Dew Claw removal still legal?

The removal of dew claws is still permitted.  In England it is allowed under The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 and in Wales under The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (Wales) Regulations 2007.

Both Regulations operate alongside the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. As such the removal of dew claws by laypeople (over 18 years of age) or vets, before the dogs eyes are open, is allowed.  The regulations state that the procedure must be carried out in the following manner:

(a) in accordance with any relevant requirement in Schedules 2 to 9,
(b) in such a way as to minimise the pain and suffering it causes to the animal,
(c) in hygienic conditions, and
(d) in accordance with good practice.

Full Regulations, certification and other links:

The certificate needed to be completed by a working dog owner
and docking vet for EACH puppy, in pdf format Download Docking Certificate

A suggested information sheet to be given to each new puppy owner.
This document has NOT been drawn up or checked by a solicitor (as yet) so the CDB
cannot accept responsibility for any complications arising from its use Download puppy sale form

The Docking of Working Dogs Tails (England) Regulations 2007, in pdf format Download Full Regulations

The explanatory memorandum to the regulations, in pdf format Download explanatory memorandum

The Animal Welfare Act in full Download Animal Welfare Act in full

The Kennel Club has a tail docking question and answer information page here

DEFRA has a tail docking information page here

Run up to the ban

In 2004 the Government published a Draft version of its proposed Bill. This indicated that there would be a ban on so-called ‘mutilations’. 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.

Since 2004, the CDB worked very closely with the Kennel Club in a concerted effort to retain the freedom of choice. We were both pleasantly surprised when the Animal Welfare Bill was published 14 October 2005 to read in the Regulatory Impact Assessment which accompanies the Bill, that the Government stated: “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.”

Dark forces

Sadly, this view was not shared by the majority of MP's. The third reading of the Animal Welfare Bill took place on Tuesday 14 March 2006, and 88% of MPs voted in favour of a ban on tail docking with an exemption for certain working dogs, with many restrictions.

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 suggest that they will only support docking for working dogs, classifying non working dogs under “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 (when it suited them) previously supported the CDB approach.

Both BASC and the Countryside Alliance continued to work closely with the authorities to help frame the regulations outlining the "working dog exemptions" both in England and Wales.

The Animal Welfare Acts came into force in Wales on 31 March 2007, England on 6 April 2007 and Scotland from 30 April 2007. Tail docking was effectively banned from the above dates. An exemption for certain working dogs only applies to those being docked in England or Wales.

United we stand, divided we fall

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 appear unworkable as so few vets continue to dock under its administrative requirements and continued pressure from the RCVS, who to this day, will discipline innocent vets who dock within the law.

The CDB has been offering members introductions to docking vets for over ten years, but this
service has now ceased for two reasons;

1 - we can no longer guarantee veterinary coverage throughout England and Wales due to the huge decrease in numbers of vets docking under the new regulations.

2 - our offer to finance the defence of vets disciplined by the RCVS for docking, has had to be
withdrawn as over 90% of our funding previously came from the show fraternity. Now they can no longer dock, our membership income has ceased.

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 leave tails undocked from the above dates, or stop breeding.