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Docking Tails on the Docket
New York considers a ban on cutting tails.
A reason to wag: no docked tails.

If the phones aren’t ringing off the hooks for members of the New York Assembly Agriculture Committee, they will be as soon as they take up serious consideration of Assembly Bill 7218. The bill proposes to make all instances of docking a dog’s tail unlawful, except when deemed necessary by a veterinarian to protect the life or health of the dog. In addition, it will make anyone exhibiting a dog with a docked tail subject to a misdemeanor charge. And, finally, the bill provides that New York animal rights organizations can sue a violator for declaratory judgment to obtain redress for a violation. (Full text.)

Members of the American Kennel Club and other breeders are lining up to defend docking, which they call an acceptable practice “integral to defining and preserving breed character, enhancing good health, and preventing injuries.”

While I wish we didn’t have to legislate common sense, I don’t really see the argument for docking. Is it really about protecting working dogs against injury? The AKC claims “an intact tail at full-length would result in injured and bloodied tails when the dogs perform the functions for which they were bred.” Setting aside the fact that many of these dogs’ “work” is in a show ring, wouldn’t an exemption for working dogs, such as they have in the United Kingdom’s Animal Welfare Law, cover this risk to dogs? 

The argument that the practice of docking is “longstanding” and “accepted” for “more than 50 recognized breeds” hardly makes the case for it. Lots of obviously bad ideas were widely accepted before they were rejected. As for preserving “breed character” that’s a tough one. Isn’t character just a human idea of what a dog should look like? Couldn’t we learn to love long-tailed Dobermans and Rottweilers? I know I already do.

The other side? Neither the American Veterinary Medical Association nor the American Animal Hospital Association endorse tail-docking for cosmetic purposes. Each states that the procedure causes dogs pain and distress and runs risks of complications, hemorrhage and infection. While neither organization is conclusive about long-term problems associated with docked tails, there is a growing body of evidence that docking tails may create ongoing pain for dogs, maybe even phantom limb syndrome, problems with balance and compensation injuries. There’s an excellent coverage of the debate in the December 2005 issue of Whole Dog Journal.

And what about wagging? I mean, aside from the health consequences, what do we do to a dogs' ability to "speak" to us and to one another when we cut off this important communication tool?

Speaking of communication, I expect this will ruffle some fur, and I sincerely want to hear from proponents and opponents. Please, tell me what you think.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Mary H. | April 9 2009 |

Good post! I agree completely with you.

There's no reason why pets and show dogs need to have their tails chopped off.

As for working dogs, I'm not sure I buy the argument that they need short tails, as working dogs with long tails seem to do just fine.

For instance, what about corgis? Cardigans have long, full tails, Pembrokes have docked tails. Both are used as working dogs for herding, guarding and other purposes. Pembroke tails are docked purely for appearance.

Hopefully the legislation will pass, but I assume it will be met with some resistance.

cheers,

Mary H.
http://stalecheerios.com/blog -- a serial for positive animal training

Submitted by Sabine | April 17 2009 |

I would enthusiastically welcome a law against cropping and docking. The breeders have to make the first step, since the AKC seems to be busy filling out registrations for puppymill puppies. Their ethics need to be reviewed IMHO.

Just picture a dachshund with cropped ears, or a great dane with a docked tail. People would be appalled and complain ! There are breeds that do have floppy ears and their ears do not get amputated because they may get an ear infection. That argument is meaningless.
Let's suggest to crop Labs, Goldens, Poodles and such from now on and maybe people wake up and realize how ridiculous and cruel that practice really is. Here you have six week old puppies with bloody ears and cones on their heads. They should be given the chance to be pups and not some taped up ear-amputated beings.

Sorry - I just lose my cool if people make animals suffer because of their vanity. :(

It's up to all of us ! Just don't buy pups that are cropped and/or docked. You wouldn't buy any petstore puppies either, why buy mutilated ones ? ;)

Submitted by Carolyn with Ma... | April 10 2009 |

I was surprised at the fervent opposition of some in response to the Whole Dog Journal article you mention. A natural tail, and natural ears for that matter, seem like a good thing to me. Not only are they instruments of communication with people, likewise with other dogs. I can't help but feel the dogs are slightly handicapped when "modified" in this way.

Submitted by Mike B. | April 11 2009 |

Great post and very timely for me. After much searching and deliberating, I adopted a 3yo Rottweiler about 3 weeks ago. The pictures I saw on-line of him either purposefully or coincidentally left out part of his posterior, so when I went to meet him for the first time, I was quite startled when I saw a big bushy tail wagging at me! At first, it was a bit perplexing and unusual - especially for a Rott - but it grew on me very quickly and now I can't imagine C.J. without his tail. It certainly doesn't change the important characteristics of his breed, his temperament (which is fantastic), nor his personality. When I took him to my vet the first time, they were all SO excited to see a Rottie with an intact tail. If anything, it's getting him MORE positive attention, which he certainly doesn't mind. IMHO, the arguments in favor of tail docking are not as strong or convincing as the arguments against.

Submitted by Kathy Konetzka-Close | April 14 2009 |

I really don't see this bill passing, even though the arguments for tail (and ear) docking are pretty thin. Actually, there is a small grain of truth regarding ear docking because floppy eared dogs do get yeast infections more frequently than their prick eared brethren. But I digress. My cynical side tells me the AKC will win this battle because NYC would lose the Westminster dog show at Madison Square Garden, and that show alone brings in millions of dollars worth of revenue to the city. England's laws on docking are light years ahead of ours, but I'm just not sure we're there yet. I'd love to be proven wrong, however.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 17 2009 |

It has been illegal in most Europaen Countries and Australia for a long time to dock dogs tails and crop their ears. It makes me very sad to see dogs that have been mutilated. A lot of people I talk to are not even aware that some dogs are altered.
I have a dog with floppy ears. When he was a puppy he did have an ear infection. I make a point of keeping his ears very, very clean and he has never had a problem since.
I have seen some dogs who's ears are almost cropped to nothing. There is no protection from rain or snow.
Please continue to speak out about causing dogs unnecessary pain and suffering.
Once people are aware, they are less likely to buy a dog that has been altered.
Thanks for listening,
Marion

Submitted by Eileen | May 3 2009 |

I'm glad to hear at least some movement. I lived abroad for years and now am doing research specifically on this topic. Most of the breeders in Europe I have exchanged info with seem to have been all right with the ban and their own unusual 'problem' was with their dogs' now waggly tails...knocking off things on the coffee table!! Most of them have noticed a difference in how other dogs respond to them now with an expressive tail.
I'm guessing the AKC will fight any laws that keep them from doing 'business as usual'...but they respect laws once they are in place (like some states that ban ear cropping).....
I'm all for any breeding selections and 'choices' that really improve the health and future of a breed...Docking is not one of them! And breeding natural bobtail dogs together has it own dangerous health consequences....

Submitted by Rodney | May 4 2009 |

I see lots of humans with their noses broken. Maybe we should start sawing the bone down to a mere bump when they're born. It would protect them from injury.

Submitted by DogLover | May 26 2009 |

It appears no one replying to this has any experience in tail docking or ear cropping or any real info from places this ban has gone into place.
Litter registrations have dropped drastically in docked and cropped breeds in Europe (a win for the animal rights nuts who want all breeding to end anyhow).
Tail injuries are up in dogs that are normally docked.
Docking is not painful when done right and does not interfere with canine communications (we are sight oriented dogs are scent oriented and guess what docking and cropping do nothing to impact the dog's nose!).
Ear cropping is less invasive, painful or life altering than spay neuter surgery is. Not only that, again if done correctly, there is little to no pain to the dog and there are benefits including easier recognition of breed when a dog ends up in a shelter.
Bans like this impact rescue and increase the deaths of dogs. Rescues can't place docked or cropped dogsin areas where its against the law to have one and where animal rights nuts are given free reign to harass dog owners with charges and court cases.
NY state economy will be impacted - dog shows bring in lots of money as do dog breeders and that will go away.
I suspect most here have no idea how many breeds are docked and cropped and how many will vanish with out their signature look.
I've been with every pup when tails, dewclaws and ears were removed and done all the aftercare - doesn't impact the dogs at all except that they get extra handling when young which is all good for increasing intelligence, immune systems, and socialization.
http://www.cdb.org/

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