‘League Against Cruel Sports welcomes new dog tail docking ban in Northern Ireland but expresses disappointment at working breed exemptions’

Posted on January 4, 2013


Today (4th January), the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) issued a media release which they also posted on their web-site titled ‘League Against Cruel Sports welcomes new dog tail docking ban in Northern Ireland but expresses disappointment at working breed exemptions’.

‘… Animal welfare charity, the League Against Cruel Sports, has welcomed new legislation from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland, which bans the docking of dogs’ tails from 1st January 2013. The charity has, however, expressed disappointment at working breed exemptions in the legislation.

This new measure is being introduced under of the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011, which aims to protect any vertebrate animal, including domestic pets, from unnecessary suffering. From 1st January 2013, it is an offence to dock or allow someone else to dock the tail of a dog you are responsible for in Northern Ireland. It is also an offence for a dog to be taken to another jurisdiction to have a tail docking procedure carried out. Anyone convicted of illegally docking a dog’s tail could now face a maximum of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Under the Act, it is not an offence if the tail is removed by a veterinary surgeon for the purpose of medical treatment; or in order to save the dog’s life; or if removal in these circumstances by a veterinary surgeon is not possible.  In addition, an exemption from the ban is available for a number of breeds of dogs used for work in connection with law enforcement, lawful pest control or the lawful shooting of animals.

The introduction of this provision also bans the showing of dogs docked on or after 1st January 2013, at events where the exhibitor pays a fee or members of the public pay an admittance fee. This ban does not apply where a dog is shown only for the purpose of demonstrating its working ability.

The League Against Cruel Sports’ Northern Ireland Senior Public Affairs Officer, Mark McCormick says: “While we welcome this new legislation, we are disappointed that the Department’s commitment to end all tail docking has been diluted to allow docking for working breeds. During the consultation process, the League and the veterinary community raised strong objections to such an exemption coming into place in Northern Ireland. 

“We believe that the exemption for working dogs creates a two-tiered system in which a dog is only worth the protection of regulation if it has a definable market value. This is fundamentally wrong and against the spirit and intention of a law that is designed to improve animal welfare standards.”

Even though supporters of the exemption will argue that working dogs must have their tails docked to prevent injury when working, recent research by the Royal Veterinary College and Bristol University has concluded that the risk of a tail injury among working dogs is actually extremely low at 0•29%. In dogs generally, the risk of a tail injury is 0•23%. Based on these statistics, the tails of 500 dogs would have to be docked to save one tail injury.

The legislation also states that tail docking of working dogs must take place within five days of the pup’s birth. However, as most dogs from working breeds begin their lives as family pets, it is impossible for anyone to judge whether a pup will grow up to be trained as a working dog.

Mark McComick concludes: “The League Against Cruel Sports believes that the working dog exemptions to this law mean, sadly, that a positive and welcome piece of animal welfare legislation is open to potential exploitation, which will ultimately fail to protect the animals that the Animal Welfare Bill is intended for. We will continue, therefore, to campaign for a blanket ban on tail docking in Northern Ireland and to seek to persuade the Department that such mutilation of dogs is never necessary, no matter what the breed.” …’

Read the media release and view image at www.league.org.uk/news/1100/League-Against-Cruel-Sports-Welcomes-New-Dog-Tail-Docking-Ban-In-Northern-Ireland–But-Expresses-Disappointment-At-Working-Breed-Exemptions

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