A docked tail is easy to recognize as the little nub wiggles excitedly back and forth. Tail docking has been long associated with the look of many dogs. It is also becoming a hot spot for animal rights activists and empathetic dog owners. Tail docking was once considered a necessity but over the past ten years, many humans are wondering why we put puppies through this process. Cutting the tails off pups was once done to prevent their tails from being damaged. However, that was during the time when dogs worked for a living. Now, most dogs sit at home as companions for their human families and might at the most go to work as show dogs. The opinion of the growing majority is that tail docking is a barbaric process that is done for no other reason than to make the dog “look” a specific way.
It is illegal for anyone other than a licensed veterinarian to dock a tail. In these cases, there is a call for action against vets who routinely dock the tails of certain breeds for any reason other than therapeutic. However, there are no criminal actions that can be brought against a vet who routinely docks the tail upon request despite the many actions requesting harsher penalties. Show dogs are docked to preserve the look of the breed, and undocked tails lower puppy prices.
Tail docking is said to be a painful process by those who want to ban it. There can be problems later in life with a tail that was unnecessarily docked as scar tissue develops and problems dealing with infection can set in. This means that tail that has been docked runs the risk of a later amputation.
Should Tail Docking be Allowed?
The arguments for tail docking are equally as strong as the arguments against the procedure. Taking away the aesthetic argument, it has been proven that the dogs which would have normally been docked had a high rate of tail injury. In 1989, the procedure was eliminated in Sweden, and in the first 18 months of life, 38% of the registered undocked litters experienced a tail injury that required medical care. By 1991 the number of incidents rose to 51%. While these numbers may not reflect much information at all, since there hasn’t been documentation to determine the number of tail incidents involving naturally undocked tail of other breeds, or it may reflect the need to continue docking the tail. The study is said to be incomplete.
The procedure is said not to cause pain, and some veterinarians even claim that sleeping puppies have been docked and have never woken. Puppies are said to act and feed normally just after the experience, and thus the argument is made that humans only perceived pain for the puppies without supporting evidence.
Most veterinarians no longer use surgical appliances and scissors to dock the tail. Rather, a tight band is wound around the docking site within the first 24 hours after birth and the blood flow is cut off, allowing the tail to fall away. Some see this as even more cruel than snipping the tail while others see it much like that development of the human belly button.
Some terrier breeds are said to need their tails docked due to the mess that occurs with defecation. With a massively hairy tail that can’t be held high enough to remove the hair from fecal matter, these dogs suffer from severe hygienic issues and even maggot infestations even with weekly bathing and daily brushing. This is obviously something that humans aren’t looking to deal with and could create a surplus of unwanted dogs.
There are obviously reasons for and against the process of docking the tail. Many breeders want the right to obtain certification in docking and be permitted to perform their own docking. The laws regarding docking are much more stringent in the U.K. than they are in the U.S. Some humans are looking the U.K. as an experiment in the anti-docking movement and feel that U.S. laws regarding tail docking can adjust depending on what happens with the animals’ welfare in the U.K.
The topic of tail docking will absolutely be a hot topic for dog owners, breeders, and empathetic dog lovers for a long time. Of course, the pups involved would love to have a say, but their communication abilities with their tails, whether docked or undocked are simply not that sophisticated. For now, the U.S. is keeping an eye on the docked and undocked versions in the U.K. and determinations regarding U.S. tail docking will be made over the next few years.
Those who wish that their new puppies’ tails be left intact can always ask the breeder to do so. However, most breeders still believe that it is in the best interest of the dog. Some dog breeders refuse to sell puppies undocked, and if you are making the request, you may end up having to either give up on your desire to see your puppy with his full tail or you may have to find another breeder, which unfortunately also means finding another puppy.
For now, tail docking is perfectly legal and is still quite commonplace. While show dogs that have been left intact have been winning high awards, the movement hasn’t been enough for the activists who wish for the procedure to cease.