MSPs vote to end outright ban on tail docking for dogs

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association backed the changes

MSPs have voted to end the outright ban on tail docking for dogs in Scotland.

The parliament voted by a majority in favour of creating exemptions for two breeds, which would allow vets to shorten the tails of spaniels and hunt point retrievers by up to a third when they are puppies up to five days old.

The move ends the outright ban brought in by the Scottish Government in 2007 as part of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, which also makes it illegal to take a dog out of Scotland to have its tail removed.

While other parts of the UK have a ban on docking, there are exemptions for working dogs including spaniels, hunt point retrievers and terriers.

Labour and the Greens opposed the changes, while the Conservatives were in favour along with a majority of the SNP, and Liberal Democrats were given a free vote.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said evidence shows these types of gun dogs are at increased risk of injury without having their tails docked.

She said: “We firmly believe that shortening the tail of puppies at risk of tail injury will improve the welfare of these dogs.”

The procedure can only be carried out a by vet who must be satisfied there is sufficient evidence to show the animal will be used as a working dog in later life.

The SNP’s Christine Graham called on backbenchers to reject the changes.

Parliament voted by 86 to 29 in favour of the changes, with nine abstentions.

Following the vote, Labour’s David Stewart said: “This horrific process has no place in a civilised society and was banned by the last Labour government. This is a very disappointing backwards step and Scottish Labour will always fight to protect dogs from this brutal treatment.”

The Green’s Mark Ruskell said: “Vets and animal welfare charities warned that this would be a retrograde step for Scotland, but callous SNP and Tory MSPs have endorsed this cruel and unnecessary practice.”

Director of animal welfare charity OneKind, Harry Huyton, said: “This is a sad day for animal welfare. Scotland has gone from a world-leading ban on all tail-docking to a law that offers puppies weaker protection than in England.

“This was done in the absence of evidence, with no support from the animal welfare and veterinary communities, and against the wishes of the vast majority of the Scottish public who wanted to see the ban remain as it was.”

A YouGov poll the charity commissioned found 70% Scots surveyed supported retaining the outright ban while 92% of those who took part in a Scottish Government consultation supported docking for the two specified breeds.

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