Scottish Labour’s Animal Welfare Spokesman David Stewart asks you to support the ban on Tail Shortening in Puppies.


I was saddened – but not that surprised – to see the Tories and the SNP joining together in the environment committee to repeal the ban on tail shortening for working dogs. Because of that vote, tail shortening could now be allowed for certain breeds of dogs.

Tail shortening is a cruel and unnecessary procedure, and it’s worth taking a moment to think about what it involves, and what the SNP and Tories actually voted for last week.

If the ban is repealed in parliament today, it will be legal to shorten a puppy’s tail if it belongs to a certain breed, and there is a chance it might be used as a working dog in the future. This will be done with no anaesthetic, as the puppies’ livers are too new to withstand the drugs normally used to dull the pain. When the tail is cut off, puppies’ skin and muscles are crushed, along with up to seven pairs of nerves, bone and cartilage. It is a barbaric, and hugely painful procedure for puppies who are usually only five days old.

It may be that puppies forget the agony of an amputation with no pain relief. But the problems don’t stop for the dogs as they grow older. Any dog owner will tell you that dogs talk using their tails by communicating happiness, anger, pain or fear to humans or other dogs.

There is very little evidence to support that tail shortening has positive effects on working dogs. Research by the Royal Veterinary College suggests that 500 dogs would need to have their tails shortened to prevent one single injury. The pain inflicted on so many puppies for such a small outcome is not justifiable.

The SNP and Tories will argue that tail shortening is the only way to prevent future injuries. But that’s just not true. There is some evidence to show that  fur that may be tangled in long grass and shrubs could be trimmed, or tail guards could be worn.

The regulations which repeal the ban don’t specify any evidence that will be required to prove that puppies will go on to be working dogs. This could lead to whole litters of puppies having their tails docked unnecessarily, when they will actually go on to be family pets. Furthermore, the regulations do not adequately specify what will be considered to be an acceptable working activity. Instead of Labour’s comprehensive ban on a cruel practice, the SNP and Tories are supporting weak regulations which will allow tail shortening again.

It’s not just tail shortening though. The SNP also opposes a ban on electronic training aids, another missed opportunity to protect dog welfare.

Electronic training aids use the principle of being aversive to dogs to inhibit behaviour and so can negatively impact dog welfare. The use of aversive techniques when training dogs can have several negative impacts. They can cause pain and anxiety, resulting in both physiological and behavioural indicators of stress particularly when they cannot be anticipated by the dog.

These revelations are not really all that surprising. This SNP Government has been in power for a decade and its record on animal welfare is dismal.  We are still waiting for the ban on hunting to be strengthened, we are waiting for a ban on circus animals, and we have watched the Nationalists band together with the Tories to roll back crucial legislation to protect the welfare of dogs.

The SNP charms the support of those who stand up for animals in Scotland, and then forgets about the issue and moves on  to the next target audience.

We want animals to be treated humanely and fairly in Scotland. This isn’t just rhetoric, we believe it is the right thing to do.  Labour will make sure that we prioritise ensuring all animals in Scotland have a safe habitat, that they live free from cruelty, and that their safety is protected by adequate legislative protection and enforcement.

Today in Parliament Scottish Labour will vote against tail shortening, sending an unambiguous message to the SNP that animal welfare should be for life, and not just when you need a few votes at election time.

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