The Scottish Government repealed the ban on tail docking for specific breeds of working dogs after Glasgow University reported that over half of working spaniels and a third of hunt, point, and retrieve breeds suffered tail damage each shooting season.
Dogs that had had the tip of their tails docked were far less likely to sustain injury.
While other parts of the UK have a ban on docking, there are exemptions for working dogs including spaniels, hunt point retrievers and terriers.
Back in 2007 I addressed the issue of tail docking in a post entitled Nannying Idiots Continue to Ignore Real Problems:
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....
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.