An unnecessary procedure
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.