Friday, September 14, 2007

Nannying Idiots Continue to Ignore Real Problems

I got an email tonight from Char (Pearl's first mom and breeder) letting me know that a woman in the U.K. has been jailed for violating the ban on tail docking that exists over there.

For those who do not keep up on such things, the new U.K. law states that only veterinarians can dock puppy tails, and that even then it can only be done if it is deemed to be "medically necessary."

Heads up. In this increasingly interconnected world, even stupid ideas in other countries can quickly creep in over here. A while back, for example, I received an email from Canada suggesting that the idea was gaining ground in that country. My correspondent wrote:

"I am writing you for help in clarifying a long standing dispute among terrier fanciers involved in conformation dog shows. I am involved in several traditionally docked terrier breeds (Lakeland, Fox, Welsh etc.) and it is becoming increasingly common to see these breeds undocked. Is there a functional purpose for docking tails? Is it required to work terriers?

Why I am supposed to be an expert on these things?

I don't know, but I guess I'm as good as the next guy to ask for an opinion. So here goes.

This is a European debate. You remember Europe. Europe is the place where the rivers are so polluted that the eels no longer run up the rivers to spawn, and where carp are considered a game fish. Europe is the place that has shot out almost all its wolves and bears. Europe is the place that colonized Africa and now lets Africans starve due to lack of aid or political intervention.

Europe has ignored these things, and decided that the the real horror in the world is docking puppy dog tails!

What morons.

The Brits were fools to follow Europe in this. Now let's hope Canada does not go follow the Brits, or I may have to burn my Joni Mitchell and Neil Young CD's.

Tail docking is a very minor procedure and does no harm to the dog. It is largely aesthetic and historical with certain breeds. That said, some terriers and other breeds have long thin tails that can be damaged when whipped in brush, worked in rock, etc. so they may benefit, medically, if they are docked. How often an over-thin and fragile tail is a real medical problem depends on the breed, the dog, how it works, where it works (and if it is worked at all).

A terrier's tail, of course, is an essential part of the dog, and I consider it a very stupid thing to dock a terrier tail too short. I always advise people to err on the side of leaving the tail too long. You do not want to lose a good handle on the rear end of a working terrier by being too quick or aggressive with a pair of tail nippers.

That said, a very long tail is of no use to a terrier, and could be a small health liability. A dog often has to exit a hole backwards and around curves. In that situation, a long thin tail could be a problem -- imagine exiting a tight and winding tunnel with a spring-pole stuck out behind you, and you get the idea. And then there are the thin tail tips that bleed when banged against rocks and brush.

Some caveats. At least one breed of working terrier does not have a docked tail -- the border terrier -- and neither do working dachshunds. The tail on a border, however, is a very solid thing and is not easily damaged. If you cannot pick up a border terrier by its tail and throw it over a fence, it's not a true border terrier. A tail that is left intact on a working Jack Russell terrier, however, often ends up being very long and thin, and as a consequence it could be subject to real damage, and so it is generally docked.

Another issue for working dogs is that digging on a dog is not an absolutely precise thing, and so the length, form and placement of the tail becomes an issue. To put it bluntly, a long thin whippy tail trailing behind an underground dog could be subject to being trimmed by a shovel.

Has it ever happened to me or anyone I know? No. I am careful and my dogs rarely come in direct contact with a shovel. That said, it does not take too much imagination to think harm could result if a digger were very inattentive.

All in all, however, and as I said before, tail docking is mostly done for cosmetic and historical reasons.

But so what? We do a lot of things for cosmetic and historical reasons. Why can't tail tail docking be one of them? For God's sake, people, let's use a little common sense!

People circumcise their children, women get themselves nipped for child birth (it's called an episiotomy), and every third teenager has a pierced tongue, nipple, eyebrow or navel.

Whole TV shows are devoted to full-body tattoos.

Women are getting breast implants or breast reductions, and men are getting hair transplants and scalp reductions.

Noses are bobbed, fat is sucked out, teeth are capped, botox is injected, and ears are being pierced, ringed, barbelled, and pinned.

Ever been to a PETA rally? If you look around, you will see a lot of metal hanging out of nostrils, off of eye brows, or rammed through tongues. Every other girl will be showing off her "tramp stamp" tattoo on the small of her back. God only knows what you might find ringed, belled and pierced if you were foolish enough to ever see one of these PETA lunatics standing before you naked. The mind shudders.

Consider PETA spokes-idiot Pamela Anderson, who not only married the walking Erector Set known as Tommy Lee, but who also got her own body repeatedly tucked, sucked, injected, lifted, dyed, bobbed, and implanted. And these people are worried about a ten-second tail nip? What on earth for?

There are real problems in the world, and this is NOT one of them.

The anti-tail docking people have no sensible rationale to oppose tail docking -- it is a ten-second thing done when the dog is one or two days old, and it is over with very little fuss or pain. People who love dogs more than their own lives have been doing it for generations -- proof alone that it is a small thing and does no damage to the dog while sometimes serving a health function in the field.

Here are some real things to worry about with dogs:

  • Closed genetic registries which mean that the genetic diversity of dogs is dramatically reduced in time, and with it the health of every breed with a closed registry (i.e. all Kennel Club breeds);
  • Fat dogs which do not see exercise and which have sad and shortened lives (about 1/3 of all dogs);
  • Slick floors in kitchens which increases the chance of hip dysplasia for all large canines (a serious and sad thing);
  • Poor fencing, poor obedience training, and the complete absence of tags and microchipping which means dogs are easily lost and frequently struck by cars.

These are REAL dog problems. Tail docking does not even come close to making the list of things to be concerned about -- in the world of working dogs or otherwise.

Not everything in the world needs to be legislated, and this is something that fits under the umbrella of "leave it alone and let freedom ring."

If a breeder of nonworking dogs wants to leave the tails on their dog long, so what? If a breeder wants a sensible working dog with a properly docked tail, so what?

What interest, business or concern is it of society?


The tail docking debate is really about a very small but vocal sector of society wanting to be nannies to the rest of us.

As a general rule these people know very little about dogs, know nothing about working dogs, and do not give a rat's behind about honest animal welfare -- if they did, they would pick a real issue to take action on.

And there are a LOT of real animal welfare issues. How about habitat protection? How about disease control in wild animal populations (rabies, distemper, mange, tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease, West Nile)? How about pushing to lower the price of veterinary care and improving access to it as well? These are real issues.

Fair warning, however -- making a change in these arenas might involve actually going out into the environment with mud, bugs, rain and cold (Ugh!).

In addition, a real problem might be inconveniently complex and serious (God forbid!), and actually involve something more involved than self-righteous bullying of ignorant legislators and dog owners.

But of course, the tail-docking debate is not really about dogs, is it? It's about people who want to feel smarter and superior to others. These people will always be with us and I suggest they simply find something new to feel smarter and superior about.

If, faced with all the issues and problems in the world (hunger, violence, hurricanes, disease, lack of health insurance, war, poverty, illiteracy, racism, deforestation, violence against women, animal extinctions, loss of global fisheries, pollution, child abuse, etc.), someone thinks tail docking of well-loved pets and working dogs is a major concern worthy of time and energy, they are idiots.

Nannying idiots.

Nannying European idiots.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarification on the tail-docking debate. I have dogs, and have worked for veterinarians;
you are right in listing the REAL things to worry about with dogs!

I agree that the whole debate seems to have come from a small but vocal sector of society. But then, I don't personally get circumcision or cosmetic surgery, either...

That said, we just adopted a puppy (who seems to be a Patterdale terrier), from a local shelter--but she has a curly tail, much like a Basenji! She mostly carries it curled high on her back (which is probably a breed disqualification), but--since she is strictly a companion--there's no worry about its functionality.

kabbage said...

Here's a nondog-related story of laws that should not be written. I heard this today on the radio. Someone in Congress wants to mandate that no one can wear a hat or sunglasses inside a bank. Banks are already able to have their own regulations that say that customers may not wear hats or sunglasses. Doesn't that solve the problem without the legal system getting into the act? How to decide: felony or misdemeanor if I've been walking my dog in the rain with a ballcap on and forget to take the damn thing off before I go in the bank? Or do I have to take it off before I use the drive-up window? Feh! A thousand times, feh!!!

kabbage said...

About the tails: I have an Australian shepherd with a full-length tail. It's gorgeous when it's clean and brushed out, and it allows me to read her body language more easily. It's not a functional tail for a working sheep- or cowdog in the American west. That tail would be permanently attached to her rear breeches with burrs and the like, esp. since her coat texture and density also would be awful in a working dog.

I like the look of the tail. I might choose to get another aussie from an undocked litter, but I can't see asking the breeder to not dock a particular color/gender at 1-2 days old because I won't know if that's my dog at that age.

I also dislike the tendency in Aussies to dock to absolutely no tail because it can make normal defecation difficult.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Terrierman!

To be honest, I don't really care much about what people decide to do with or to their own bodies of their own free will as consenting adults, and I think it's quite besides the point.

What I do find mind-boggling though, is that it's still legal to "dock the tails" of small boys without any say in the matter, even as the myth of the medical, hygenic and sexual benefits of circumsicion has long since been busted (unlike tail docking for working hunting dogs).

But some people just don't seem to be able to get their heads around the fact that it might actually be preferrable - even kinder - to dock a dog's tail at an early age to prevent debilitating injuries from arising in the first place, rather than be forced to amputate its fully developed and sensitive tail later on. See Phantom Limb Pain for more information, if you're not already familiar with this phenomenon. But then again, the very same people would probably rather see all springer spaniels doing agility than what comes natural to them (HUNT!!!). Go figure...


Anonymous said...

Finally, someone who speaks sense. Hallelujah, God bless you, brother!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! I have been in the doggie business for 40 years (terriers and others) and I have never read such logical lunacy. I ROFL and loved your writing...what a hoot. Fortunately, or unfortunately, you are correct on most accounts.

One bit to share: I was told many years ago that terriers tails were docked for because they were long and thin AND if the dog was stuck in a hole (accidentally or because it was hanging onto something) and you grabbed hold of the end of a long tail, you could break it off. If you grab hold of the tail at the base (what is left after docking) then no harm is done to the dog.

This supports the "too short is bad" theory. I have one JRT whose tail is so short, I would hate to think where I would have to grab if she were stuck!


paivi said...

I was a bit baffled when I first saw this post. As a long-time reader ad admirer of your writings and dog-related common sense, I was surprised to see you supporting tail-docking on no other grounds except that it is traditional and aesthetically pleasing. Are these not the very same reasons people support Kennel Club style line-breeding for looks, for example?

Also, what would be your stand on cropped ears?

PBurns said...

Paivi, I am not opposed to breeding for looks. I am opposed to breeding for DEFECT which causes PAIN and shortened life. They are not the same thing, are they? By the same token, tail cropping and cropped ears, if done properly, does not cause pain any more than circumcision does.

I always find it fascinating that people have such a hard time with the idea of Liberty. Just because you CAAN do it, does not mean you have to do it. Just because you personally do not like something does not mean it should be banned. This is is Liberty 101.

Here's a question for you: How do you feel about spays and neuters? They are major operations, and yet we hear not a peep, and in fact we hear people demanding MANDATORY spay-neuter. And yet, very often these same people oppose tail docking. Would you ban spays and neutering?


Allison said...

I hear you on your opinion that PETA members are hypocritical, but PETA would simply point out that the issue is not the mutilation of the body per se, but the freedom of choice to do so. Humans have the choice to maim themselves in the name of art, beauty and vanity. Animals, however, don't ask to have their tails lopped off (nor do they ask to be shaved into living topiary, but that's a different subject).

PBurns said...

You may think so, Allison, but you would be wrong. PETA has no problem ripping animals open to sterilize them, or cutting bits off of them so they cannot reproduce. PETA is not opposed to microchipping or tattooing dogs for ID, nor are they opposed to killing perfectly healthy dogs. In fact, they have killed scores of thosands of dogs and cats aty their own shetler, where they do next to nothing to try to adopt animals out. No "animal consent" is asked for, or received, for any of this, of course.

To be blunt, PETA is simply a group of ego-besotted fools and nannying idiots who are screaming "look at me" as loudly as they can. It has nothing to do with dogs or animals at all, and quite a lot to do with ego-gratication and exhibitionism of the most juvenile sort.


Unknown said...

I have mini/toy Dachshunds that I breed on occasion. I always dock the puppies rat looking tails. It not only makes them have a cleaner look, their is no chance that their tail will become injured someday in someway. Their are many in this breed has a naturally bent down tail that they keep mostly between their legs and after many years of sitting on it, it will show baldness and later on crack and bleed which becomes infected, which in many cases needs to be amputated because if the tails poor blood supply. Also because of their strong muscular based tail, that goes into a very thin whip like end that has a strong vigorous wag to it, it can and has caused eye injury to small children sitting down on the flood with their low to the ground pets, only to get a tail whipped into their eye. It happened to my son and caused him to have a lacerated cornea. Younger children and even adults have been guilty of being to inpatient when closing the door behind their beloved pet's elongated body, and closed the door on their Wienerschnitzel's poor wager, badly damaging it or even lopping it off. What would you say is more painful, docking at birth, which in my opinion takes a blink of an eye to perform or loosing it to a mishap? I rest my case.

shera said...

Great read... lots of interesting facts..let down only by your monologue rant about Europe. Luckily i have a Border terrier. I will try out the throwing her over the fence trick, especially as she gets on famously with the Beagle next door! Love from Europe rofl

Unknown said...

Well, you certainly are opinionated but I think it is obvious you have never been to Europe and if you have then your ignorant rant is simply dishonest and should disqualify anyone from taking you seriously.

I am Canadian, and having lived in Germany for the last 10 years I can only say that half the crap you wrote about Europe and Europeans is hateful nonsense. We can eat the fish out of and swim in the Havel river right here next to Potsdam which is half an hour by train from Berlin. Find a major river half an hour outside of Detroit, New York or Toronto and then catch and eat a fish. I dare you. With fracking I imagine in about 10 years there will be little if any potable water in America. Fracking, btw, is illegal in Germany.

As for the docking debate, maybe you have a point and then maybe not. Your anti Europe whatever you want to call it however a little weird and strange.

One last point. The carp eaten in Europe is almost exclusively farmed, dimwit.

PBurns said...

Richard Tichy, I have been to Europe (not sure why that makes me an expert, but it's hardly a secret) and it really is you who are the idiot.

For starters, you can eat fish from any river in America and hunt bear within 30 miles from New York City or Detrot and pull massive fish from freshwater as well. Surely you know this because you must have once visited America, LOL. Idiot speaks idiocy.

I notice you do not actually post a countervailing footnote to my point about eels in European rivers. Why>? Because what I wrote is true! See here >>

You also cannot post much about the rest of what I said: "Europe is the place that has shot out almost all its wolves and bears. Europe is the place that colonized Africa and now lets Africans starve due to lack of aid or political intervention." All of that is true too!

I am also 100 percent right about Carp being considered a "game fish" all over Europe because trash fish is about all that is left in Europe's fresh waters. That's a simple fact.

You confuse MARKET fish with wild caught. Yes market catfish and carp come from ponds. The fact that you do not know the difference between market fish and sportman caught wild fish suggests you do not fish at all. Talk out your ass? Oh yes, you are a damn ventriloquist in that regard.

By the way, fishing for trash fish is called fishing for "Rough Fish" in Europe. After you actually buy a rode and bait a hook,.you might take the time to read while you wait at the river bank. LOL. Idiot indeed!

And have you even BEEN to Toronto? Seriously? The city is SURROUNDED by the largest freshwater lake on earth... and terrific fishing. Really, I am not sure if you are an idiot or a lunatic. But please stay in Germany. Exporting lunatics and idiots is a business I want to encourage!

Kirri said...

Tail docking for COSMETIC reasons has been illegal in the UK- ahead of most of the EU- since 2004 and before that in Aus and NZ. Terriers and other "working" breeds, but not sheepdogs, are exempt, although the Vet should have a pretty clear reason for docking a whole litter as the BVA is policing this area. My friend, who took her Springer to her own Vet to be docked, ad to take a letter from her shoot as proof the docking was not cosmetic. She was then able to dictate the lengthen of tail she wanted, and had a dog with a good but safe length of tail, able to converse freely with other dogs!HOW is this a problem? The removing of bits of dog for no GOOD reason is, to me, barbaric. The swipe at Europe for Africa is quite interesting coming from an American..... I should very much like to see COSMETIC docking and cropping banned everywhere, but I guess, as with the use of check reins and soring and weighting on horses, America will be left behind again....