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Controversial tail docking ban could be lifted for working dogs

Scottish Government seeking views on whether or not some exemptions should be allowed.

Working spaniels: Change in law could allow tails to be docked.
Working spaniels: Change in law could allow tails to be docked. Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images

The Scottish Government is seeking views on whether or not some exemptions to the ban on docking dogs' tails should be allowed.

Scotland outlawed the practice completely in 2007, although exemptions exist in other parts of the UK.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on a possible alteration to the rules, which could allow vets to dock the tails of working spaniel and hunt point retriever (HPR) puppies by up to a third of their length to reduce the risk of them being more seriously injured later in life.

Launching the call for views, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said it is an issue which divides opinion.

He said: "Scotland is a nation of dog lovers with some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

"Protecting dogs from avoidable harm and suffering is the whole reason Scotland banned tail docking in the first place. But since then it has been argued that an exemption for specific breeds could help reduce the risk of injury to working dogs.

"This issue has clearly divided opinion, which is why it is only right and proper that the Scottish Government formally consults on such an exemption and how it might work in practice.

"Specifically, we are seeking views about a very tightly-defined exemption for spaniels and hunt point retrievers as well further potential restrictions such as whether docking should be limited to the top third of the tail or whether the procedure should only be carried out by specially-approved veterinary surgeons."

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg said: "Tail treatment in an adult dog, often resulting in amputation, can be complex, traumatic and prolonged, and taking sensible steps to prevent this greater harm, we feel, should be part and parcel of responsible ownership of working spaniels and HPRs."

Research published in 2014 found docking the tails of working dogs by a third while they are puppies could significantly decrease their risk of injury.

The study from Glasgow University was commissioned by Scottish ministers. The consultation closes on May 3.

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