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Sunday, 21 August 2011

If You Tolerate This, Your Children will be next!

As many of you will know, the docking of working dogs is something of a hobby horse of mine. I believe it is vital for the welfare working dogs. A decision not to dock a puppy that potentially has a working life in front of it, is in my opinion, a decision based on ignorance and cruelty.

Docking has effectively been banned in Scotland since 2007, with a limited exemption allowable for a prescribed list of working dogs in England and Wales. Whilst docking in England and Wales still remains legal, it is increasingly difficult to find a vet who is willing to undertake the procedure. This in many ways is not surprising given the stance that is taken by the RCVS.

Docking is an emotive subject. It causes feelings to run high on both sides of the argument. Yet, there is a slew of evidence to support tail docking as a way of minimising traumatic tail injury. Numerous articles and research papers have been published on the subject; however, informed opinion still seems to be remarkably rare.

So it was with mixed feelings that I see that the Scottish Parliament has commissioned further research, this time in association with Glasgow University to look at the experience of working dogs in Scotland since the ban. Previous research undertaken with the University of Bristol, sponsored by the Scottish Parliament was far from satisfactory; hardly surprising when the body paying for the study has a vested interest in the outcome. So here we go again with another round of market research.... Alex Hogg from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has been directly involved with this research and indeed it is due to the persistence of the SGA that further study has been undertaken.

I'm an admirer of the SGA – they get many things right most of the time and speak with a good deal of sense; more than can be said for some of our other representative bodies, but I'm afraid I have to say with this issue I'm at odds with them.

We don't need any more bloody market research! How many more times do we need to re-invent the wheel? It is a waste of time and money. This issue needs people on the street; protesting against this specious law. No doubt this "research" will take months to complete, cost a fortune and be as inconclusive as the last lot. It is a classic case of "the SGA are making a fuss about docking again. Let's give them a market research study – we can make it look like we are doing something, manipulate the results in our favour and shut them up for another couple of years....."

For herein is the thin end of the wedge, if you tolerate this........

Perhaps if the male members of the steering committee were made to crawl through heavy cover with their todgers hanging out, as suggested by a pro-docking friend of mine who is a vet, we may get a rapid change of opinion.....

For what it is worth.........


  1. I am one of the male members who are on the steering committee. I also work 4 spaniels in possibly the worst brambles in Scotland. Don't go falling out with people who are genuinely making a difference. The law WILL be amended in time for next season. The survey is a process that has to be gone through in order to amend the law. Patience is not my strongest attribute but persistence is what makes changes in the law and I'd doubt that you would find anyone on the steering committee with more persistence than Alex or myself when it comes to this issue
    If you feel like doing something that will make a difference to the law, then could I suggest writing to your MSP about the harm this tail docking ban is having on you and your dogs, then to back it up go to his/her's next surgery and ask them what they are going to do about it. This is a far more potent way of getting laws changed than waving placards on the streets. You might even be surprised how few people actually do take the time to write to their MSPs. Most leave it for others to do and then start slagging them when they don't see instant results

  2. I wasn't aware that I was falling out with people! Sorry I can't call you by name, as you haven't left yours.

    I doubt that my opinion would garner much weight with an MSP, as I live in England, however, docking is an issue that affects everyone who works dogs irrespective of where they live in the UK.

    I'm happy that you are so confident that the law will be amended and I truely hope that you are correct.

    I have spent most of my working life commisioning and analysing market research, so forgive me if I don't get too excited about the power of a research survey to change opinion. The questionnaire is somewhat cursory IMO, but if that is what you need to do to achieve change then good luck to you. I hope you are proved correct, time will tell.

  3. So if I, as a male, got a job with you that involved crawling naked through heavy cover, you'd cut my Todger off for my benefit? The day rate would have to be effing exceptional!

    I'm not emotive about this issue, I've sliced the balls off plenty of budding rams, I just can't see the point of docking tails. With my dogs it's their ears and bellies that get torn up along with thorns in their paws and I lost one to a Puff Adder (Bitis Arientis). Never lost one to an infected tail. I am not taking the piss, I am genuinely curious.

  4. I've seen a fair number of spaniels busted by heavy cover. In truth they are never the same again. Once the end of an intact tail is cut, it never heals as strongly and invariably gets smashed the next time you take the dog through any heavy cover.

    Ears and bellys are a problem for me too; I stitched up one of my spaniels 3 times last year, but it goes with the territory as far as I am concerned. The difference is you can't do anything up front to prevent it, whereas lopping off a couple of inches of the pups tail really does strengthen it and prevents most injuries.

    You'd be hard pushed to lose a dog to infected tail, but I have seen one with gangarene that had to have the tail amputated.

    In affect, some vets are happy to charge you £200 to stitch up a tail for as many times as it gets damaged and then £1000 to amputate it when its damaged beyond repair, but are unwilling to dock a pup @ three days old for £15! Not difficult to see the financial reasoning there.

  5. You can do it yourself with the same strong rubbber bands used to squeeze the scrotum off a lamb. It'll worry the animal a bit but once the circulation and feeling are cut off, it seems to be no more than an itch and after a while, rather like a withered umbilical cord, it falls off. That's how my Grandfather in Germany used to do it in the old days and he was 'enlightened'. Before that it was a quick slice with a cut throat razor.

    I can follow your reasoning so will at least agree to differ ('cos I still can't see the point!) but nevertheless, yours is a nice blog. I found it through a link on Bambi Basher's blog.

    My dogs are half wild and certainly not pure bred but they are instinctive hunters. If they see me pull my boots on (usually I slop around in flip flops) they get excited. When they see me pull the rifle out they go berserk. Usually we go after Bush Buck for the pot and these things are quick on the hoof. The dogs are blisteringly fast and can flush and drive a buck to me good enough so that in one out of ten chances, I can drop one. Often the buck will try and dodge into the nearest bit of thorn scrub but the dogs, slavering with the chase will just dive through it and come out bleeding preceeded by the buck and followed by their tails.