BSAVA against Scottish Government decision

5 July 2017

BSAVA believe Scottish Government’s decision to reintroduce tail docking is a retrograde step

The BSAVA’s opinion is that the decision to reintroduce tail docking to Scotland is a retrograde step that would be detrimental to animal health and welfare.

Hollyrood’s environment committee voted last month by seven votes to three to amend legislation to lets vets shorten the tails of some working dogs. The plans will now go to a vote of the full chamber where there is likely to be a majority in favour of the amended legislation.

The Scottish government introduced the ban on tail docking in 2007 as part of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act, becoming the only part of the UK with a blanket ban.

BSAVA believe that the Scottish Government’s decision was especially disappointing given the previous clear and unambiguous Scottish ban on tail docking which was held in high regard by colleagues in other regions of the United Kingdom who have encountered problems with legislation similar to that which will now be in place in Scotland. Additional concerns exist over the realistic ability of vets to certify that puppies will enter working homes at less than 5 days old, coupled with the ambiguity over the certification process itself.


BSAVA response to Scottish Government on tail docking & electronic training collars


Tail docking

The BSAVA do not support the tail docking amendment being introduced to allow vets in Scotland to remove the end third of the tail of spaniel and hunt point retriever pups if they have evidence they are likely to be used as working dogs in connection with shooting in later life.

In the Association’s joint response with the BVA to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposal to permit tail docking of working Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers, we pointed out that:

“Based on the experience of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we consider it is difficult to genuinely restrict tail docking to puppies that later go on to be working dogs and, even if it were possible, we would be unable to support a change in legislation as we do not support tail docking in working dogs, as even in the breeds most frequently affected by tail injuries a large number of puppies have to be docked to prevent a single serious tail injury. Where there are exemptions to the ban for certain working breeds the rules are being abused and we believe it is impossible to genuinely restrict docking to working dogs. We are therefore unable to make any specific suggestions as to how an exemption could be enforced and believe that any declaration of intent by an owner/breeder, however well supported by evidence at the time, could not reasonably be checked or followed up after the event.”

In respect to the other points raised, we would question why, if a veterinary certificate of docking is to be required, the Scottish Government will not specify the exact wording? We would recommend that this is reconsidered as providing exact detail of the evidence that is required to complete the certificate, and the format and exact wording required in the certificate, make it easier for those involved in docking of dogs’ tails to demonstrate compliance with the legislation.

In respect of microchipping, we do not support the requirement to specify the type of microchip that should be implanted or the specific time that this should be done. These requirements are not in place in other regions of the UK that have allowed tail docking, and would require veterinary practices that undertake tail docking to stock a particular type of microchip and implanter.

From our experience while some veterinary practices carry out microchip implantation at the time of tail docking, others require the owner to return to the practice at a later date (often around 6 weeks of age) to ensure that the puppies are microchipped and the certification is completed before sale. It is therefore more important to ensure that the legislation requires that the docked puppies are microchipped by a veterinary surgeon (preferably the same vet but at least at the same practice where they were docked) and a certificate supplied, before sale.

We are aware of the anomaly in the legislation in England and Wales that provides an exemption for docked puppies not to be microchipped until 12 weeks; it is our understanding that microchipping is still required before sale or transfer. However, as no such exemption exists in the Scottish legislation we see no reason just to specify that the puppy must be microchipped before it is 8 weeks of age.
Electronic collars

As noted in our response with BVA to the Scottish Government consultation on potential controls or prohibition of electronic training aids in Scotland, our preference is for a ban on remote control static pulse training collars and remote control static pulse anti-bark collars. We would agree with the position of the RCVS that dog training is not an act of veterinary surgery. We do not see a role for veterinary surgeons in selling or approving the use of electronic training aids or invisible fence type collars for cats or dogs, as this would not be in line with our position statement on aversive training methods.

We would, however, welcome a Code of Practice for all aversive training aids. As stated in our consultation response, we strongly recommend that this should advocate the use of positive reinforcement as the preferred approach to dog training and provide owners with detailed guidance on when to seek professional help. The code should also explain the potential problems with the use of aversive training methods including not only electronic training aids, but also other aversive training aids such as prong collars.

The introduction of a Code of Practice should also help to provide best practice, set minimum standards for device instructions and aid prosecutions by establishing in court whether unnecessary suffering had been caused.