An un­nec­es­sary pro­ce­dure

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION - With Dr Ian Schraa

The old ar­gu­ment about whether tail-dock­ing of dogs should be banned in New Zealand is hope­fully go­ing to be dis­cussed in Par­lia­ment soon, when the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act is re­viewed.

I am pretty clear on the ar­gu­ment my­self.

The prac­tice should be banned be­cause it is an un­nec­es­sary cos­metic pro­ce­dure. It is ar­chaic, in­dis­crim­i­nate and cre­ates po­ten­tial health and be­havioural prob­lems for dogs.

First, let’s use the proper term for what dock­ing re­ally is. It is the am­pu­ta­tion of the lower part of the spinal col­umn.

A com­mon ar­gu­ment for the pro­ce­dure is breed stan­dard and tra­di­tion.

That trans­lates to fash­ion and an in­abil­ity to move for­ward for the sake of the an­i­mal.

There are many things in a mod­ern civilised so­ci­ety that we don’t do any more be­cause we have im­proved our un­der­stand­ing and stan­dards.

The same ap­plies to tail dock­ing.

The breed stan­dard it­self makes a mock­ery of it by say­ing that some breeds should and some shouldn’t have docked tails.

For ex­am­ple, the Pembrokeshire Welsh corgi is docked ac­cord­ing to breed stan­dard, but the Cardi­gan Welsh corgi is not. There’s no logic. Some spaniels are, some aren’t. The rot­tweiler breed is not born with­out a tail, but it is am­pu­tated. Rot­tweil­ers nat­u­rally have a lovely thick labrador-type tail.

All dogs are born with tails, ex­cept the nat­u­rally short stub tail of the smith­field, a very un­com­mon breed in New Zealand.

All other dog breeds that you see with short­ened or no tails have had them am­pu­tated at two to four days by hav­ing a rub­ber band put around their tail.

Tails are im­por­tant, es­pe­cially for com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Ev­ery­one should know that a dog with a raised, wag­ging tail is happy and in­ter­ested in be­ing so­cial.

Dogs that can’t see a tail will pre­sume it is di­rectly be­hind a more ag­gres­sive po­si­tion or be­tween the back legs, which is a fear­ful or sub­mis­sive po­si­tion. That can cre­ate a mix-up of mes­sages.

One of the best things about own­ing a dog, for me, is see­ing that happy, wag­ging tail greet me at the end of a day’s work. I feel sorry for dogs that have only a stump to try to ex­press this joy.

The other main ar­gu­ment for dock­ing is that by re­mov­ing the tail the dog can­not in­jure it later.

That might be OK if the tail was not so im­por­tant and if it was true.

Tail in­juries are not com­mon in dogs and if a dog in­jures its tail we deal with the prob­lem as we would if it in­jured a leg, or ears.

New Zealand is one of only a hand­ful of coun­tries that still al­lows dock­ing of dogs tails. Aus­tralia banned it in 2004, Bri­tain in 2007.

Let’s make it 2013 in New Zealand.

Dr Ian Schraa owns Rap­paw Ve­teri­nary Care.

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