Ireland is living in the past: it’s about to become legal for members of public to dock puppies’ tails.

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Tail docking is a illogical, nonsensical form of puppy torture, and it looks set to become legal in Ireland.  The procedure is brutal: a pair of scissors, a sharp knife or a tight ring are used to chop off a young puppy’s tail. There is no anaesthetic, and it clearly hurts a lot (they squeal loudly), but the pups are too small and helpless to do anything about it. The pup above was brought to me for treatment after the amateur tail docking job had resulted in a chronic non-healing wound.

Tail docking has been banned in the UK since 2007: it’s completely illegal in Scotland, and in England and Wales, it’s only allowed for a small number of working dogs or when the procedure is needed for medical purposes under theAnimal Welfare Act 2006 or the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. It’s also illegal to show dogs that had their tails docked after 2007.  The subject has been debated in detail elsewhere, but the evidence is clear: tail docking causes pain to puppies, and it does not reduce the incidence of tail injuries in adult dogs, even in working animals.

Tail docking is also illegal in most European countries: the fact that it has not yet been banned in Ireland is the only reason why Ireland is unable to become the 23rd European state to ratify the Council of Europe’s European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. (In fact, the UK is also unable to ratify this convention because of the illogical “working dog” exemption on tail docking in England and Wales).

Until last week, it seemed that tail docking was about to be phased out in Ireland. Suddenly, this has changed.

A new Animal Health and Welfare Act is due to be brought in by the Irish Minister of Agriculture Simon Coveney in the next few weeks. The new law has been carefully drafted in conjunction with veterinary bodies and animal welfare groups, all of whom are strongly anti-docking. The Act specifically prohibits “surgical procedures for cosmetic reasons” and it also bans  ”mutilated” dogs from being exhibited in the show ring. These clauses were introduced to stop old-fashioned and unnecessary procedures such as tail docking.

So far so good. So it was a bombshell when it was made known last week that the Minister intends to allow tail docking by members of the public, by listing it in a Regulation under procedures that may be performed without the use of anaesthetics or pain relief. The other activities under this section are mostly agricultural tasks, such as ear tagging cattle, castrating sheep and removing piglets tails: these have been allowed to permit such traditional aspects of agriculture to continue (even though it can be argued that, logically, they too should be restricted).

The official bodies representing animal welfare in Ireland are incensed at this news: it’s worth reading the open letter that has been written to the Minister by Veterinary Ireland, the ISPCA and Dogs Trust. An online petition has been launched to gather public support against the new Regulation: you can sign it here. The petition was started on 10th November, and already has over 5000 signatures.

It isn’t too late to change the future for Irish puppies: the government must surely be listening to common sense and the voice of the people.

  • Laurence Doyle says:

    It’s a terrible idea to allow ordinary members of the public to dock their pets tail, just horrible. But I wouldn’t like tail docking to be completely outlawed by vets, only reason I say this is, I have a Rottweiler and they just look so stupid with a tail (might be a silly reason to be pro docking), every time I see one I just cringe. I’m going to get a pup from my dog in the next few months and I couldn’t imagine owning one with a tail, I just hate the look of them with the tail, I love seeing his little stump wagging every day. I hate the look of it so much that If it was outlawed here I’d fly the pup to a country that did do it.

  • Cynthia Stonall says:

    The petition link is not working, could you re-set it please?

  • elizabeth carter says:

    This is barbaric, no place in the 21st century.

  • Eileen Slack says:

    Why oh why this is so cruel and unnecessary .A dog needs its tail to greet people and their animal friends . This practiced must be outlawed .

  • Liz Horgan says:

    Let me understand this, Simon Coveney. Minister for Agriculture. in Ireland…. has gone over the heads of all Veterinary consultations and all veterinary bodies and decided that he can allow the public to cut off animals tails and pull out their dew claws.This should not be done in the first place and to do it without pain relief, He alone can make this a law.

    What is his reason for doing this? Have we allowed a person that is meant to be representing the people of Ireland this kind of power?

    I really want to know why Simon Coveny as Minister for Argiculture is not aware that Ireland is not very good to our animals in the first place and that he should be trying to protect animals and promote care and education of animal welfare. I just don’t understand why he can not see the harm he is doing and really am afraid of what else he might allow .

    Is he really the person we want as Minister of Argiculture

  • Niamh Moriarty says:

    I always wondered why people did this- it’s a weird old tradition that doesn’t seem to have any practical use and if it causes the animals pain, that’s an enormous reason not to do it. If for some strange reason someone prefers their pet to be short-tailed then there are plenty of breeds that fit that criteria, but perhaps if that is the case it’s better not to own an animal?

  • Emma Boylan says:

    This makes me ashamed to be Irish. I care very much about animals and this disgusts and upsets me very much :-(

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