Sunday, 6 January 2008

>>Docking (dog)

Docking (dog)

Docking is used as a term for the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail or ears. The term cropping is also used, more commonly in reference to the docking of ears, while docking more commonly—but not exclusively—refers to the tail. The term bobbing is also used.

Other animals (such as sheep and pigs) either historically, or currently, have been subject to tail docking. For information about docking of other animals, see Docking (animal).

History of docking and cropping

For dogs who worked in fields, such as some hunting dogs and some herding dogs, tails could collect burrs and foxtails, causing pain and infection; tails with long fur could collect faeces and become a cleanliness problem; and particularly for herding dogs, longer tails could be caught in gates behind livestock. These arguments are often used to justify docking tails for certain breeds, although the same rationale is not applied to all herding or to all hunting dogs with long or feathered tails.

Many hunting dogs’ tails are docked to prevent them from becoming injured while running through thickets and briars while fetching hunters' prey. The few hunting breeds that are not docked, including English Pointers and the Setter breeds, may have chronic injuries to the tips of their tails. Such injuries cause continuing pain and discomfort and are at risk of infection throughout their lives.

Boxers with natural and docked ears and docked tails
Boxers with natural and docked ears and docked tails

The practice of cropping dogs' ears and cropping their tails is controversial. Studies show that dogs severely docked tails are twice as likely to be involved in aggressive attacks as dogs with longer tails; likewise for dogs with severely cropped ears.[citation needed] However, dogs with cropped ears might make better guard dogs for this reason.[citation needed] Cropped ears and docked tails are less likely to be injured or infested with parasites than long ears and tails. Some owners simply believe cropped ears and docked tails are more appealing than the natural ears and tails that some dogs posses.

Some people believe that docking a dog's tail is a cruel practice. They believe that if a dog is performing its job—such as hunting—then it is fine to dock the tail; if the dog of the same breed is in a home where it doesn't do the job, however, then docking is not necessary. Some people believe that, if a newborn puppy's tail is docked without the use of anesthesia, the puppies are put through much pain. The newborn can't express pain clearly, so most breeders seem to think the puppies don't feel a thing.

In many breeds whose tails (or whose ancestors' tails) have been docked over centuries, such as Australian Shepherds, no attention was paid to selectively breeding animals whose natural tail was attractive or healthy – or, in some cases, dogs with naturally short (or bob) tails were selectively bred but inconsistently (since docking was done as a matter of course, a natural bob did not have an extremely high value). As a result, in many of these breeds, naturally short tails can occur, but medium-length and long tails also occur. Occasionally, tails have developed with physical problems or deformities because the genetic appearance was never visible or because of the inconsistent emphasis on natural bobs. Breeders often consider many of the resulting tails to be ugly or unhealthy and so continue to dock all tails for the breed.

Current status

A Doberman Pinscher puppy with its ears taped to train them into the desired shape and carriage after cropping
A Doberman Pinscher puppy with its ears taped to train them into the desired shape and carriage after cropping

Docking is usually done almost immediately after birth to ensure that the wound heals easily and properly. An old belief said that newborns hardly felt the injury, but now reputable breeders have cropping and docking performed only under licensed veterinary care. Today, many countries consider cropping, docking to be cruel, or mutilation and ban it entirely. This is not true in the United States, and the breed standards for many breeds registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) make undocked animals presumably ineligible for the conformation show ring. The AKC states that it has no rules that require docking or that make undocked animals ineligible for the show ring, but it also states that it defers to the individual breed clubs (who define the breed standards) to define the best standards for each breed.

In such an environment, even people who desire undocked dogs often cannot get them. Most people prefer to choose a puppy from a reputable breeder after the puppy is old enough to determine personality and conformation, whereas docking is done immediately after birth. A breeder normally will not withhold docking on an entire litter so that a potential owner can later have one of the puppies with an undocked tail, as docking an older dog is a major surgery-requiring anaesthesia.

Show dogs are no longer docked in the United Kingdom. A dog docked before 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, 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.

Legal status by country

In Europe, the cropping of ears is prohibited in all countries that have ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.

Legality in the United Kingdom

In England and Wales, ear cropping is illegal and no dog with cropped ears can take part in any Kennel Club event (including agility and other nonconformation events). Tail docking is also illegal, except for a few working breeds, but only when carried out by a registered veterinary surgeon.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom, has said that they consider tail docking to be "an unjustified mutilation and unethical unless done for therapeutic or acceptable prophylactic reasons". In 1995 a veterinary surgeon was brought before the RCVS disciplinary council for "disgraceful professional conduct" for carrying out cosmetic docking. The vet claimed that the docking was performed to prevent future injuries and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence otherwise. Although cosmetic docking is still considered unacceptable by the RCVS, no further disciplinary action has been taken against vets performing docking.

In March 2006, an amendment was made to the Animal Welfare Bill (now the Animal Welfare Act 2006) which makes the docking of dogs' tails illegal, except for working dogs such as those used by the police force, the military, rescue services, pest control and those used in connection with lawful animal shooting. Three options were presented to Parliament with Parliament opting for the second:

  • An outright ban on docking dogs' tails (opposed by a majority of 278 to 267)
  • A ban on docking dogs' tails with an exception for working dogs (supported by a majority of 476 to 63)
  • Retention of the status quo.

Those found guilty of unlawful docking would face a fine of up to £20,000, up to 51 weeks' imprisonment or both.

In Northern Ireland legislation regarding docking has not yet been drawn up. It is therefore still legal.

In Scotland docking of any breed is illegal. The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 contains provisions prohibiting the mutilation of domesticated animals.

Queen Elizabeth II, who owns and breeds Pembroke Welsh Corgis (a docked breed), is on record as having stated: "As dog breeders we have been given a charter to maintain the appearance of the breeds as handed down by our forebears through the various breed standards."

Arguments against docking dogs' tails

Robert Wansborough argues in a 1996 paper that docking dogs' tails puts them at a disadvantage in several ways. Firstly, Wansborough argues that dogs use their tails actively in communicating with other dogs (and with people); a dog without a tail might be significantly handicapped in conveying fear, caution, aggression, playfulness, and so on. In addition, certain dog breeds use their tails as rudders when swimming, and possibly for balance when running, so active dogs with docked tails might be at a disadvantage compared to their tailed peers.

Wansborough also investigates seven years of records from an urban veterinary practice to demonstrate that undocked tails result in less harm than docked tails.

Each of these criticisms has its counterarguments , as shown by the Council for Docked Breeds.

There is controversy over whether evidence shows that docking does or does not cause significant pain, does or does not lead to behavioural problems, whether it prevents chronic injuries that cause more pain and risk of infection than the docking procedure done a few days after the puppy is born.

Docking proponents argue that the pain felt by the puppy is insignificant compared to the pain felt by an adult dog with a tail injury, so that docking should be allowed as a preventative measure in traditionally docked breeds.

1 comment:

Pet Meds said...

Great read! I learned a thing or two after reading you post :)