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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 19:46 GMT
Concerns raised over tail docking
By Catherine Lyst
BBC Scotland news website

Boxer with tail. Copyright Emma Milne.
Boxers are more commonly seen without tails
A ban on tail docking in Scotland would make a "mockery" of legislation unless the same laws applied in England, according to a senior police officer.

Stuart Shearlaw, Central Scotland Police's senior animal health and welfare officer, said the proposed rules would be difficult to enforce.

The ban is being considered under a new Scottish bill but is expected to be diluted in a similar Westminster bill.

Breeders are threatening to take their dogs to England to be docked.

"We can't tell anyone which vet to use so people will undoubtedly just go south of the border," Insp Shearlaw said.

This law will be very difficult to enforce and as a result, we could be criticised for not enforcing it rigorously enough
Insp Stuart Shearlaw
Central Scotland Police

"We will effectively have a double standard which makes a mockery of the law."

He added: "There is also a concern that the practice will go underground with breeders carrying out the docking themselves."

The new restrictions are being proposed as part of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill, currently going through the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Executive, backed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association, wants to prohibit the docking of dogs' tails but proposes to make an exception for working dogs.

However, Insp Shearlaw said the restrictions would be difficult to enforce as it would be almost impossible to determine which puppies in a breed would grow up to be working dogs.

"When a litter of puppies are six weeks old how can anyone say which of them will grow up to be working dogs," he said.

'Difficult to enforce'

"This law will be very difficult to enforce and as a result, we could be criticised for not enforcing it rigorously enough."

The Kennel Club confirmed that breeders were planning to use the legal loophole to have the procedure carried out in England if necessary.

A Kennel Club spokeswoman said: "The correspondence we have received suggests that breeders are planning to take their dogs south of the border if this ban is brought in."

Rottweiler with tail. Copyright John McCann.
Many breeds, such as Rotweilers, have docked tails

She said the Kennel Club was concerned about the animal welfare implications of bitches and their pups being driven to England.

"A journey like that would obviously be very stressful for the mother and the litter," she said. "It should be up to the breeders whether or not they want to dock their puppies' tails.

"We don't think a ban should be introduced."

She added that Kennel Club rules now allowed dogs with tails to compete alongside the same breed with docked tails.

Graham Downing, spokesman for the Council of Docked Breeds, said: "I have absolutely no doubt that if there is a restriction in Scotland and docking is legal in England, Scottish breeders will go south of the border to have their animals' tails docked.

"We want freedom of choice. If breeders don't want to have their dogs' tails docked that's fine."

But Peter Stevenson, political advisor for Advocates for Animals, said the possible loophole should not prevent the executive from going ahead with the ban.

It is possible that some puppies could be taken to England to be docked but that is no reason to allow that practice in Scotland
Scottish Executive spokeswoman

"It would clearly be desirable for Scotland and England to have the same law but at the moment it seems that the executive is willing to go further than the UK's environment department," he said.

"If England is going to have a weaker ban that doesn't mean Scotland will have to rein back with its own. It's important that Scotland should lead the way.

"I would like to think that most people are law-abiding by nature and will accept the law of the land and just get on with things."

Animal campaigner The Duchess of Hamilton said: "Scotland is leading the way and England must follow. However, I am disappointed that working dogs will still be able to have their tails docked."

'Get-out clauses'

Chris Laurence, veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, said: "The only solution is a complete ban on both sides of the border. As long as we have these get-out clauses there is always going to be a doubt about whether the docking has been done legally or not."

Leonora Merry, parliamentary officer for the Scottish SPCA, added: "We would like to see tail docking of dogs prohibited in all cases except for therapeutic reasons.

"We would also like to see consistency with England."

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: "We are doing this because we believe this is correct. In this we are supported by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

"It is possible that some puppies could be taken to England to be docked but that is no reason to allow that practice in Scotland."

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