Tail docking is a procedure that is commonly carried out worldwide on many different breeds of dog, almost universally for cosmetic reasons but historically in order to prevent possible damage to the tails of working dogs for whom their natural tail was perceived to be detrimental to their working role. While some countries still dock the tails of certain breeds as standard, in the UK, tail docking for cosmetic purposes is now illegal, and comes with hefty penalties for people who breach this rule.
However, under a small range of very specific circumstances, tail docking can still be performed legally, which means that you may have seen some dogs with docked tails whose docking was not performed in breach of the law. In this article, we will look at the law relating to canine tail docking in the UK, and its exceptions, in more detail. Read on to learn more.
A full and in-depth explanation of tail docking and how it is performed is covered in more detail within this article. In short form, docking involves the removal of all but a few inches of the natural tail of the dog, and this is usually performed very soon after the puppies are born, and rarely later on. Tail docking methods can vary from surgical removal by a vet, to common at home practices including attaching a tight elastic band around the tail to cut off the blood supply, until the remaining tail dies off and detaches.
While tail docking used to be very common, the impact that this had upon dogs should not be minimised, as it is both painful and potentially risky, as well as mutilating the dog and their ability to use their tails fully as a form of expression and communication.
The law regarding cosmetic tail docking within the UK is very clear; it is an offence to dock the tail of a dog, permit a dog’s tail to be docked or ask another person to dock a dog’s tail unless the circumstances fall within a very narrow set of exceptions, which we will look at in more detail below.
The penalties for illegal docking include a maximum of two years’ imprisonment, and an unlimited fine.
There are a range of exceptions to the law on tail docking, within the remit of a very precise range of circumstances.
Dogs that will be used for certain future working roles are also exempt from the regulation, assuming that it can be demonstrated that the dog is or was genuinely intended to be used for a specifically permitted working role, such as police work or sport, and is one of the following breeds:
It is important to note that these breed exemptions only apply to working dogs, and not any other dogs of the above breeds.
If you own a dog with a docked tail or are intending to dock your dog’s tail legally, you must be able to provide evidence that the docking was or will be legal, which means that you must fulfil the following criteria.
All dogs that will have their tails docked for working purposes should have the procedure carried out by a veterinary surgeon, and in order to do this, you will need to provide the following evidence to the vet carrying out the procedure:
You will also need to provide one of the following items:
You will also need a letter from one of the following people, to verify that the breeder of the dog is known to them and that the breeder produced or produces working dogs:
For dogs that are docked legally, the dog must be certified as such, in case the owner or handler of the dog is ever called upon to prove this. Certification involves a signed statement by the vet performing the procedure, and the breeder of the dog, and the rules also indicate that the pup being docked must be microchipped at the same clinic that performed the docking by the time the pup reaches the age of eight weeks old.
This certificate should be passed on to any subsequent owners of the dog if the dog changes hands later on.