Anti-Docking Alliance (A.D.A.)
Campaign to stop the docking of puppies' tails (and ear cropping)



Inquiry into the draft Animal Welfare Bill by the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Submission by the Anti-Docking Alliance

August 2004










Executive summary

·        The Anti-Docking Alliance was formed in 2000 to press for a complete ban on the non-therapeutic docking of dogs’ tails (paragraph 1).

·        Between 50 and 60 of the 200 breeds of dog eligible for registration by the Kennel Club have customarily been docked.  The practice continues even though the reasons historically advanced for it have disappeared for the vast majority of pet and show dogs (paragraphs 5-13 and Annex A).

·        Tail-docking causes pain during the docking, and has an adverse impact on dogs’ communication, behaviour and balance (paragraphs 14-17).

·        The reasons advanced for continuing the practice (namely reduction in injury, improved hygiene and physical appearance/breed standard) do not stand up to scrutiny (paragraphs 18-25).

·        Docking is increasingly banned in other countries (paragraph 26 and Annex B).

·        The ADA urges the Select Committee to recommend to DEFRA a 5-year ban on all but therapeutic tail-docking with an independent review at the end of that period and no exceptions (paragraph 27).

The Anti-Docking Alliance (ADA)

1.      The ADA was formed in 2000 to press for a complete ban on non-therapeutic tail-docking in dogs. 
The ADA is run as an unincorporated association by a small committee of volunteers.  There is also an honorary committee. 


.       For the avoidance of doubt, “tail-docking” in this submission refers to non-therapeutic docking.  Therapeutic docking is perfectly acceptable, assuming this would only be done if required to treat a disease or an injury for which amputation is the best treatment.

Tail-docking in dogs: history and extent

5.      Many reasons have been given why the practice of docking the tails of certain breeds of dog grew up, including:

·        rabies prevention (which the Romans believed);

·        to enable working dogs to be exempt from a general tax on dogs (repealed 1796);

·        to stop dogs being able to turn direction quickly, when this made them less effective in e.g. hunting and herding; and

·        to prevent injury, particularly in

(a)               guard dogs whose tails might be grabbed by criminals[2];

(b)               terriers working underground and vulnerable to attack from badgers and foxes[3]; and

(c)               spaniels and pointers working as gundogs in exceptionally rough terrain[4].

6.      In 1991, an amendment to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 made it illegal for anyone other than a veterinary surgeon to dock dogs’ tails (in force July 1993).   In November 1992, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) issued guidance to its members to the effect that members, i.e. vets, should not undertake docking unless it can be shown to be required for therapeutic or truly prophylactic reasons, stating:

“The RCVS considers docking of dogs’ tails to be an unjustified mutilation and unethical unless done for therapeutic or acceptable prophylactic reasons. Therapeutic docking to treat tail injury or disease is acceptable in the interests of the animal.  Prophylactic docking to prevent injury at some unspecified time in the future is not acceptable unless the Veterinary Surgeon has full knowledge of the breed, the strain and the anticipated lifestyle of the dog.  At ten days of age rarely could the lifestyle of the dog be predicted with any certainty”.

7.      The consequence of combining the amendment and the RCVS ethical guidance should have been to end the docking of virtually all dogs as puppies.

8.      From July 2001, the breed standards issued by the Kennel Club were changed to make it clear that customarily docked breeds may be shown with or without a docked tail[5].  This change was in response to the increasing number of dogs of customarily docked breeds from countries in Europe where docking is banned have been entered at British Shows as a result of the relaxation of quarantine rules[6].

9.      There are about 200 breeds of dog currently eligible for registration by the Kennel Club.  Of these, between 50 and 60 have been customarily docked; this continues to be stated in the breed standard.  A list is attached at Annex A, including a note of the original purpose for which many of these breeds were produced. 

10. An examination of these purposes - which might at one time have been thought to justify tail-docking - indicates that they are no longer relevant to most dogs bred in the UK; for example, rodent control (Yorkshire Terrier), badger and otter hunting (Welsh Terrier, Airedale Terrier), and sheep and cattle herding (Old English Sheepdog, Welsh Corgi); yet the vast majority of dogs from these breeds continue to be docked.  Where the original purpose might still apply to a small proportion of dogs bred in the UK, such as some of the gundogs, there is little consistency between which dogs are docked and which are not, as well as to the length to which the tail is docked.

11. Anomalies include:

·        In the Gundog Group, German Shorthaired and Wirehaired Pointers are customarily docked to about half natural tail length, but only the tip is removed from the tail of the much longer-haired German Longhaired Pointer, and English Pointers are not docked at all.

·        English and Welsh Springer Spaniels are docked, but English Setters, of a similar size and build, are not; nor are Labradors or other Retrievers.

·        Foxhounds (along with every other member of the Hound Group) are never docked, even though they might be expected to be working in very rough terrain, out of close control.

·        In the Working Group, Boxers, Rottweilers and Dobermanns are customarily docked but Dogues de Bordeaux, Mastiffs and Beaucerons are not.

·        Among Terriers, Australian and Fox (both Smooth and Wire) Terriers are traditionally docked, but Bedlington, Cairn and Manchester Terriers are not.

·        In the Pastoral Group, Old English Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherd Dogs and Welsh (Pembroke) Corgis are customarily docked, but Bearded Collies, Rough Collies and Welsh (Cardigan) Corgis are not.

·        In the Toy Group, Yorkshire Terriers are customarily docked, but the equally hairy Maltese is not.

The position today

12. Despite these changes in use, legislation, ethical guidance and breed standards, the practice of tail-docking in the breeds listed at Annex A has continued virtually unchecked, with the assistance of the Council of Docked Breeds (CDB), an organisation that campaigns for the retention of docking at will and arranges referrals to vets who will dock despite the RCVS ethical guidance.

13. Most dogs from customarily docked breeds in the UK today are bred either for the show ring or as family pets.  However, docking still takes place in the vast majority of litters from these breeds at the instigation of their breeders (since it is carried out at a few days old).  It is difficult to see how a whole litter of puppies of certain breeds only are being docked for genuinely prophylactic reasons.  There is no reason to suppose that any one of those puppies may have a tail injury later in life for which an appendage needs to be chopped off at such an early age just in case.  Therefore, the most likely reason why the practice continues in 2004 is cosmetic preference on the part of breeders.  This is not sufficient reason for continuing with a practice that has multiple disadvantages for dogs and no objective justification.

Does tail-docking cause pain when it is carried out in puppies of a few days old?

14. Puppies' tails are docked at around 2-5 days of age using surgical instruments or a very tight rubber band.  Advocates of tail docking claim that it does not cause pain or discomfort, as the nervous system of puppies is not fully developed.  This is not the case.  In articles published in medical and veterinary literature over the last 25 years, there remains no doubt that neonatal animals, including puppies, are capable of feeling pain. In fact, due to differences in physiology, they may even experience a greater degree of pain than an adult subjected to the same procedure.

15. Docking a puppy's tail involves cutting through muscles, tendons and up to seven pairs of highly sensitive nerves, and severing bone and cartilage connections.  It is not comparable to circumcision, which involves the removal of skin only.  Anaesthesia is rarely used.  Puppies give repeated intense shrieking vocalisations the moment the tail is cut off and during stitching of the wound, indicating that they experience substantial pain[7].

What effect does tail-docking have on dog communication and behaviour?

16. Dogs communicating with one another or interacting with people make use primarily of body language, a complex set of signals encompassing everything from the orientation of the dogs’ bodies relative to one another, to the extent to which the eyes are widened.  One of the highly visible aspects of canine body language involves the carriage and the movement of the tail.  Dogs without tails and those with are likely to find efficient communication difficult, which can affect the way they behave towards one another, e.g. through increased aggression.   The tail also contains scent glands which assist with communication.

How does the absence of a full tail affect balance?

17. The tail forms an important function as a counter balance when a dog is moving at high speed, turning sharply, balancing on a narrow ledge, jumping or climbing. It is logical to assume, (and has been stated by veterinary professionals dealing with dogs participating in competitive sports), that a dog deprived of this counter balance will find greater difficulty in performing these actions accurately.

Is there an increased propensity to injury in undocked dogs?

18. The claim that docking prevents tail damage in hunting/gundogs is the main reason given by advocates of continued docking .  Yet most docked puppies are kept as family pets and are never used for hunting (although they may be free when walked to roam in very similar terrain as that encountered by gundogs).  Furthermore, many breeds of hunting/gundogs do not have docked tails, and the length of the tail in docked breeds varies according to the breed standard.

19. Reliance is placed on two main sources:

a)     A small number of photographs/case studies of tail-injured dogs.  It is interesting to note that the same 15 or so examples are used throughout the world by advocates of docking, and appear to originate with the UK CDB.  They include non-UK examples of injury as well as tail injuries in non-gundog breeds and even in breeds that are not customarily docked, including one mongrel.  This tends to suggest that the CDB has been unable to find many documented examples of injury in gundogs, even in those countries which have had a complete ban on docking for a number of years.  The ADA does not dispute that tail injuries will occur, as do injuries in paws, ears, muzzles, etc., and endorses genuinely therapeutic tail-docking to address serious injury or disease.  However, the CDB cases show that tail injuries can occur in any breed, customarily docked or not, working gundog or not.  The logical conclusion to their approach is that all puppies of all breeds should be docked soon after birth just in case a later tail injury occurs.   Although tails can be difficult to heal, they are not necessarily more so than chronic injuries in other parts of the body, such as paws.

b)     A report into tail injury in undocked German Shorthaired Pointers in Sweden after the banning of docking in 1988.  This was a survey by the breed society, which opposed a ban.  The study was a 2-year study but in the second year reports were received on only half the original 50 litters surveyed; these appear to have been self-selecting.  Some of the pointers were used for sledding, rather than as gundogs.   The study claimed to show a high proportion of tail injuries, and 7 of 299 dogs born in 1989 had injuries serious enough to require amputation[8].  In 1996, the Swedish Board of Agriculture reviewed the study at the request of the breed society and rejected it as unscientific; no other study indicating injury is quoted anywhere.  However, Norway banned all tail-docking in 1987, and a Norwegian contributor to the CDB website states, apparently in 2002: “… I am very much involved with the spaniel club, and know that it [tail-injury] has not been a big problem”.

20. One of the CDB’s case studies is a police sniffer dog which suffered tail injury requiring amputation.  This is used to advance the argument that Cocker and Springer Spaniels when searching in confined spaces constantly strike their tail against solid objects, such as walls, causing the end of the tail to split.  However:

·        Some police forces do use undocked spaniels, and numerous police forces use Border Collies/Labradors alongside spaniels as specialist firearms/drug/explosive detection dogs which though undocked and presumably working in identical conditions, do not appear to suffer tail injury;

·        The UK Fire Service Search & Rescue Dog Teams and others also use undocked dogs such as Border Collies to work in confined and hazardous environments such as the earthquake in Iran in January 2004, and the Glasgow factory blast, May 2004.

·        Countries such as Sweden which have banned docking altogether do not make an exception for sniffer dogs, yet there are no reports of injuries.

21. Far from reducing injury, docking can cause it.  Badly executed docking can require painful corrective surgery or may even cause the death of a puppy – and allowing exceptions makes it easier for unauthorised docking to continue unchecked.  In addition, studies indicate that removal of the tail in an immature puppy may lead to improper development of the rectal and anal muscles, leading to an increased risk of faecal and urinary incontinence.

Is hygiene affected by the presence of a tail?

22. It is claimed that some heavy coated breeds need to have their tails docked for hygiene reasons, to prevent faecal contamination of the anal region and fly-strike.  However, many undocked breeds e.g. Afghan Hounds, Maltese, have similarly thick coats and regular care is all that is necessary to maintain good hygiene, e.g. by clipping the fur around the anus.  There is nothing to suggest that the presence of a tail increases the problem.

The aesthetic argument for docking

23. The final claim made by advocates of continued docking (including the CDB[9]) is that breeders have not been breeding for tail carriage, and that the different tail carriages which appear are somehow defects requiring docking to remove them.  This is docking for entirely cosmetic purposes.

24. Most dogs bred for showing already end up as pets because they do not meet the required standard in one way or another.  Tail carriage is only as likely to affect suitability for showing as any other physical feature.  In any event, variations in tail carriage could be allowed for in breed standards until it becomes clear which is preferred/is most common.

25. It is claimed by those advocating continued docking that “the public” do not want undocked dogs.  ADA members’ experience is the opposite; those with undocked dogs from customarily docked breeds are often greeted by dog owners with docked dogs with phrases such as “I wish I’d been able to find one with a tail”.  ADA listed breeders find good homes for their puppies with tails.

International experience

26. There are 15 countries around the world who have already instituted a complete ban on docking.  A list is attached at Annex B. (2011 now more)

Further information

28. Further reading on the effects of tail-docking in dogs can be found in:

a)     Cosmetic Tail Docking of Dogs’ Tails, Robert K Wansbrough BVSc (Melbourne),  Australian Veterinary Journal Vol 74, No. 1, July 1996; available at:

b)     A review of the scientific aspects and veterinary opinions relating to tail-docking in dogs, Animal Welfare Veterinary Division, DEFRA, 16 October 2002, available at:

29. The ADA is very willing to provide further information in support of this submission.j

30. The ADA’s case is summed up by the personal experience of an ADA member and breeder from Scotland:

“I no longer dock and have people queuing up for pups with tails.  I used to give people choice if they booked before pups were born but now nothing is docked and it makes life much less stressful for pups and us.  I could not bear to hear my pups squealing in pain at the Vet’s and then having this bloody mess of squealing pups handed back to me.  It is very cruel.  Pups with tails get up on their feet much quicker.  I will never go back to docking….”

Annex A: Customarily docked breeds

Note: the information on origin and original purpose has been gathered from dog breed information available on the internet. In many cases, there is more than one theory as to origin and original purpose; the most widely reported has generally been used.



Origin & original purpose of breed


Airedale Terrier


1853: cross between Otterhound and rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier to produce a single type able to hunt both otters and rats

Australian Shepherd


19 th and early 20 th centuries: stockdogs with Basque shepherds accompanying sheep being imported to USA from Australia; breeding originally for working ability rather than appearance; occasionally dogs of other herding breeds were bred into the lines

Actually originated in USA; docking appears to have been done to standardise appearance as some of this breed are born with naturally short (bobbed) tails

Australian Silky Terrier


Early 1900s; primarily a blend of the Australian and Yorkshire Terriers; domestic rodent control

Similar in appearance to Yorkshire Terrier

Australian Terrier


1868: bred from Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Yorkshire, Black and Tan Terriers or their predecessors; Irish and Cairn Terriers may also have been used: to help control rodents and snakes and serve as a watchdog

Bouvier des Flandres


19 th century or earlier: Belgian cattle herder and general farmer's helper, including cart pulling



Mid-19 th century, Germany: hunting bears and wild boar and dog-fighting



Mid-18 th century, France: to point to/flush out game, and retrieve it when shot

Originally classified as a spaniel, now reclassified as a pointer; still usually docked



1860s, Germany, mixture of Pinscher, Rottweiler, Beauceron and Greyhound: watchdog and bodyguard

Fox Terrier (Smooth)


19 th century: hunting vermin, locating foxes which had gone to ground

Fox Terrier (Wire)


As Fox Terrier (Smooth)

German Longhaired Pointer


19th century or before, Germany: tracker/pointer, retriever from both land and water

Breed standard states “Docking of tip of tail optional”; tail is well-feathered

German Shorthaired Pointer


19th century or possibly as far back as 17 th century, Germany: tracker/pointer, retriever from both land and water

German Wirehaired Pointer


Late19 th century, Germany: dual-purpose hunter, to point game on land, retrieve from water and land

Giant Schnauzer


Possibly as early as 15 th century, Germany: cattle dog

Glen of Imaal Terrier


18 th century or earlier, Ireland: hunting badgers and foxes, controlling rodents, turning cooking spits, dog fighting

Griffon Bruxellois


19 th century, Belgium: to control stable vermin and guard carriages (specifically hansom cabs)

Hungarian Vizsla


18th-19th centuries (though descended from much older breeds of hunting dog), Hungary: breed standard says: “Bred for hunting fur and feather, pointing and retrieving from land and water”

Hungarian Wirehaired Viszla


1930s, Hungary: selectively bred from Hungarian Viszla, same purposes

Irish Terrier


18 th century, Ireland: ratter, hunter, retriever

Italian Spinone


15 th century or earlier, Italy: hunting/pointing

Kerry Blue Terrier


19 th century or earlier, Ireland: hunting and herd dog

Lakeland Terrier


Early 19 th century, Cumberland: hunting and killing foxes in their dens

Large Munsterlander


Late 19 th century, Germany: breed standard says: “multi-purpose gundog, ideal for the rough shooter”

Breed standard says “docking of tail tip optional”; longhaired spaniel/ pointer/retriever appearance with feathered tail

Miniature Pinscher


18 th or 19 th century, Germany: barnyard and stable rat control

Miniature Schnauzer


Late 19 th century, Germany: farm and herd dog, carriage dog, stable watchdog, ratter

Neapolitan Mastiff


3 rd century BC, Roman Empire/Italy: gladiator dog, weapon of war and guard dog

Other Mastiffs are not docked

Norfolk Terrier


19 th century, common ancestry with Norwich until1964 (set of ears differs): ratting, badger-baiting and bringing a fox out of its den during a hunt

Norwich Terrier


As Norfolk Terrier

Old English Sheepdog


Early19th century, SW England: herding sheep and cattle: guard dog

Parson Russell Terrier


19th century: hunting small game, particularly fox, by digging the quarry out of its den

Also known as “Jack Russell”, it is said that its original breeder did not dock his dogs



15 th century or earlier, Germany: control of rodents, guard dog

In countries that permit it, ears are customarily cropped, as well as tails docked

Polish Lowland Sheepdog


Known since the early 16th century, Poland: versatile herder

May be born tailless or stumpy

Poodle (Miniature)


By 1750s, bred down from the Standard Poodle: performer and entertainer; truffle-hunter

Poodle (Standard)


Probably as early as the 15th century, Germany or France: large gundog and water retriever

Poodle (Toy)


By 1750s, bred down from the Standard Poodle: performer and entertainer; truffle-hunter; sleeve-dog

Pyrenean Sheepdog


1700s or earlier, southern France: herding sheep (is thought to have worked with Pyrenean Mountain Dog, which guarded the flock – and is not docked)

Sometimes born with short or stump tail; in countries that permit it, ears are customarily cropped, as well as tails docked



Origin goes back to Roman times: herding cattle, guarding; later also a draught dog



Known for several centuries in Flanders: favoured by Belgian canal boat owners as a guard dog

May be born tailless. Related to the Belgian Shepherd Dog (Groenendael) which is not docked



15th century, Germany: household companion, also used to chase rats and as a guard dog

Sealyham Terrier


Late 19 th century, Wales: hunting badgers

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier


19 th century, Ireland: farm dog, herder, hunter of vermin and small game

Spaniel (American Cocker)


20 th century, developed with different conformation from English Cocker Spaniels taken to the USA in the late 1870's: flushing and retrieving of game

Spaniel (Cavalier King Charles)


20 th century recovery of an old strain of long-nosed toy spaniel seen in 17 th century paintings; developed by selective breeding of long-snouted King Charles Spaniels: has been described as “the ultimate lapdog”

Breed standard says “docking optional” and in reality now rare

Spaniel (Clumber)


18 th century, possibly French in origin, produced by crossing spaniels with Basset Hounds: flushing and retrieving of game

Spaniel (Cocker)


Various sizes and shapes of spaniels known in Britain since the 14th century. By 1800, spaniels had been divided into land spaniels and water spaniels. Later, each type was named for the work it did: small, active, keen-nosed dogs that worked in dense undergrowth to flush woodcock became known as 'cockers.'

Spaniel (English Springer)


Oldest of the spaniel breeds: primary function was to "spring" game from thick brush for sportsmen

Spaniel (Field)


19 th century; larger and heavier cocker spaniels developed into separate breed: flushing and retrieving of game

Spaniel (King Charles)


16 th -17 th century, probably developed as a result of the crossing of local English spaniels with smaller toy dogs from the Orient; possibly flushing small game, but primarily a lapdog

Breed standard says “docking optional” and in reality now rare

Spaniel (Sussex)


1795, said to be Clumber Spaniel and Bloodhound cross; mainly used to hunt partridge and pheasant

Spaniel (Welsh Springer)


Similar origins to English Springer Spaniel but became distinct breed in the 19 th century; bred for flushing out and retrieving game

Spanish Water Dog


Dates back to the Middle Ages; working with fishermen, goat herding, hunting

Some of this breed are born with naturally short (bobbed) tails

Swedish Vallhund


Thought to date back to the Vikings; bred to herd cattle, catch vermin such as rats and as a guard dog

Natural bobtails occur; in Sweden, of course, docking is now banned and long tails and naturally short are both regarded as normal



Several centuries old, descended from various German hunting dogs: bred to stalk deer and to hunt bear and wild boar

A 1631 portrait by Van Dyck shows Prince Ruprecht Von Der Pfalz with an (undocked) Weimaraner type dog

Weimaraner (Longhaired)


A variant of the standard shorthaired Weimaraner, probably due to a recessive gene

Breed standard states “In long-haired, tip of tail may be removed”; the tail is well-feathered so might be thought more prone to injury than that of the shorthair, whose tail is docked far shorter

Welsh Corgi (Pembroke)


Very old breed (probably pre-1100); originally used to drive cattle to pasture

The other recognised breed of Welsh Corgi (Cardigan) has a tail “like a fox's brush, set in line with the body and moderately long (to touch or nearly touch ground)”. Some Pembroke Corgis are born with naturally short (bobbed) tails, and this is preferred, but if not naturally short, docking is undertaken to make them fit the breed standard

Welsh Terrier


Late 18 th -early 19 th century, North Wales and the north of England: used to hunt otter, fox and badgers

Yorkshire Terrier


Mid-19th century, Yorkshire: interbred from several other Terriers for killing rats in pits and mills, and as combatants in rat-killing contests. By 1886, it had been bred smaller and was primarily a pet

None of the breeds from which the Yorkshire Terrier originates (Dandie Dinmont, Manchester and Skye Terriers, Maltese) is docked today

Annex B: Countries who have already banned non-therapeutic tail-docking in dogs
Norway 1987 - The Council for Docked Breeds (CDB) asked its Norwegian contributor on the information of the law on tail-docking: “ Do you know of statistics on dogs with tail-injuries from formerly docked breeds?” The answer was: “No, but I am very much involved with the spaniel club, and know that it has not been a big problem”.
Sweden 1988
Switzerland 1988
Cyprus 1991
Germany 1998
Greece 1991
Luxembourg 1991
Denmark 1991
Finland 1996
Israel 2000
Netherlands 2001
Iceland 2001
Estonia 2001
Australia 2003
Tasmania 2004
Austria: passed in May 2004, in force January 2005
Belgium: ban to come into force January 2006


Sweden: the CDB states in one place on its website that an exception was made in 1995 for all breeds of German Pointer; however, the ADA has recently checked this assertion with the Swedish Kennel Club which has stated: “No breed has a general exemption from the docking ban”, the Swedish Board of Agriculture apparently rejecting the study widely quoted in support of docking as unscientific.

Denmark: docking is still permitted in 5 breeds of hunting dogs.

Germany: pressure was exerted in Germany to have hunting breeds exempted, however, exempted puppies must be the offspring of parents that were specifically used as hunting dogs, not just from hunting breeds.

Anti-Docking Alliance
information above as at 2004