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Tail and Ear Docking: Inhumane and Unnecessary defines the word, “docking,” as to clip short or cut off. The practice of clipping the ears and tails of dogs has been happening for centuries. There is evidence of tail and ear docking as far back as Roman times and some think possibly even earlier.

Tail docking today is the removal of a puppy’s tail, either quickly, with scissors or a knife, or slowly, with an elastic band. The cut goes through many extremely sensitive nerves in the skin, cartilage and bone. A registered veterinary surgeon or an experienced breeder performs this procedure without anesthetic when the pup is between three and five days old. Increasingly, veterinarians refuse to perform this unnecessary surgical procedure, which means that breeders are now docking more dogs themselves.

There are many excuses made by the uninformed breeder and dog owner for docking. Breeders dock tails and ears instead of allowing shorter ears and tails to occur naturally, using the process of selective breeding, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Show standards set by kennel clubs and canine organizations tend to specify that the best in show have short ears and tails.

Owners used to dock the ears and tails of working or hunting dogs to prevent potential injuries and disease. If bitten by wildlife or farm animals, the long ears or tail of a dog would have the potential to become infected. Hunters mistakenly thought that brush and long grasses would create small cuts in a long wagging tail or floppy ears as the dog ran through fields to retrieve their kill. However, it is a well-known fact many working and hunting dogs with both long tails and ears have never experienced any problems whatsoever.

Many people feel that the practice of docking is unnecessary in modern life, when people don’t need working dogs as much as in days gone by thanks to innovative machinery, which has replaced many of the tasks that dogs once needed to perform.

Some people think that docking is not painful to puppies. To the contrary, it is very painful, due to the immediate, intense damage it does to the nervous system, which is a result of cutting through the tail. If one were to witness the reaction that the puppy has to the process, like whimpering, squealing and wriggling its tail stump and/or entire body; often urinating, they would know that docking is, indeed quite painful.

There is considerable medical evidence that docking can cause health complications, including the occasional death of a puppy. Later in life, the stump of the tail can become painful due to the formation of nerve tissue scarring.

The list of cities and countries that ban docking continues to grow and includes the following: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Virgin Islands and Wales.

A good example is the law involving tail docking in Queensland, Australia, which began in 2003, and cites two specifications that must be included in order for it to be legal.   

  1. A registered veterinary surgeon must perform the docking procedure.
  2. The registered veterinary surgeon must determine that they must dock in order to ensure the dog’s safety and well-being. They cannot do it for cosmetic purposes.

Any person who docks a tail and is not a registered veterinary surgeon and/or anyone who docks a tail for reasons other than the dog’s safety is liable for prosecution. A magistrate will decide case-by-case whether the law has been broken. The maximum penalty for individuals found guilty of this offense is $7,500; for corporations, it is $37,000.

The law applies to dogs of all ages, young and old. Acceptable reasons to dock a dog’s tail include instances where damage to the tail incurred by disease or an accident and, if left as is, will cause pain and threaten the health of the animal. However, veterinary surgeons must be careful not to dock a tail in anticipation of a future problem. The docking must be for a specific ongoing health issue.

This law will make great strides in the prevention of cosmetic docking, especially with show dogs, because docked tails will no longer be required in the standards of the Australian National Kennel Council. As time goes on, people will become accustomed to seeing many breeds of dogs, known for their docked tails and ears, sporting longer tails and ears.

Tail docking is unlawful in the entire country of Australia, as specified by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council in 2003, when they outlined two specifications: docking must be therapeutic and done by a registered veterinary surgeon.

This act protects animals from unnecessary pain and suffering, documented by medical, biological and scientific studies. However, if a registered veterinary surgeon must perform docking in order to save a dog’s life or to prevent further pain and suffering, the law allows it.

You can prevent the practice of docking by refusing to buy puppies without tails and/or with docked ears. Demand your breeder refrain from this practice and tell your friends and family to do the same. Ask your kennel club or canine organization not to condone docking by making changes to their show standards to allow dogs to participate with natural ears and tails, and to judge accordingly. The demands of the public will work to make natural ears and tails in dogs both common and acceptable in both the home and in the show ring.

If docking is still legal in your area, take a stand. Contact your local government representatives and ask them to create and enact laws to make docking illegal. 

No longer will dogs have to endure excruciating pain in order to meet unreasonable standards. When people realize that docking is no longer the norm, we can stop subjecting dogs to painful, unnecessary cruelty.

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