The Vet Centre supports the policy of the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) on tail docking and will no longer dock puppies tails. The NZVA policy opposes the cosmetic docking of dogs’ tails and supports docking for medical or surgical reasons only. The NZVA believes that docking constitutes an unnecessary surgical alteration with subsequent animal welfare compromise, rather than any clear benefit to the animal.
Tail docking is performed in order to ensure that dogs meet breed standards, or because it is believed that it prevents damage from occurring to the tails of working dogs in particular situations, or to reduce soiling around the anus and tail. Tail docking of dogs is restricted or prohibited in several countries including Australia, England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Finland, Sweden and Norway.
The NZVA is unaware of any credible studies that demonstrate that the welfare of dogs is compromised by being left undocked, and finds there is insufficient evidence that if dogs of the traditionally docked breeds were left undocked they would experience a greater number of tail injuries than dogs of the traditionally undocked breeds. A recent study (Diesel et al 2010) concluded that approximately 500 dogs would need to be docked in order to prevent one tail injury!
In addition, there are studies that show that degeneration and wasting of the tail and pelvic muscles result in an increased risk of faecal incontinence, perineal hernia and possible urinary incontinence. The inflammation of nerve endings may result in chronic pain. There is also evidence from other species that while younger animals may have a higher pain threshold, early painful stimuli may result in a greater sensitivity to pain as the animal ages.
The Animal Welfare (Dogs) Code of Welfare was released in June 2010.
The minimum standard states that:
• Anyone shortening tails for non-therapeutic purposes can only do so in puppies that are less than 4 days old and only tail bands may be used.
• Tail docking must be carried out by a person who possesses the appropriate knowledge, training and competence necessary to do so effectively, and who is acting under a documented quality assurance scheme that assures compliance with the minimum standard
• Surgical shortening or removal can only be used to manage existing tail injury or disease, not for cosmetic or prophylactic docking.
The New Zealand Kennel Club operates an accredited tail dockers scheme and information can be found at http://www.nzkc.org.nz/Accredited Tail Dockers.html
The reasons why the National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC) made its decision on tail docking in its report on the code of welfare for dogs can be found at http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/animal-welfare/codes/dogs