Response 376908761

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Introduction

1. Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

Please select one item
(Required)
Individual
Ticked Organisation

2. What is your name or your organisation's name?

Name/orgname (Required)
Scottish Association for Country Sports

4. The Scottish Government generally seeks to publish responses to a consultation, in summary and where possible in detail. We would like your permission to publish:

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(Required)
Ticked Your response along with your full name
Your response only (anonymous)
Please do not publish my response at all

Sector and Origin

It would be helpful for our analysis if you could indicate which of the sectors you most align yourself/your organisation with for the purpose of this consultation (please tick one which is most applicable to you)

Please select one item
Keeper of Working Dogs
Dog Breeder (General)
Breeder of Working Dogs
Dog Breed Association
Animal Welfare Organisation
Veterinary Surgeon
Recreational Shooter
Shoot Organiser
Game Keeper
Pest Controller
Member of the General Public
Ticked Other
If other, please specify
Fieldsports membership organisation

To allow us to monitor the geographical area of responses, using the list below, please advise where you currently reside.

Please select one item
Ticked Scotland
England
Wales
Northern Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Other

The proposed exemption

1. Should the Scottish Ministers allow vets in Scotland to dock Spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies if they believe on the evidence presented to them that they are likely to be used for working in future and that the pain of docking is outweighed by the possible avoidance of more serious injuries later in life?

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No
Don't know
Please explain why
The scientific evidence in support of tail docking of working dogs in Scotland is now available (we will not repeat the statistics here since the Glasgow University research is widely available), and is unquestionably supportive of our view that tail docking should be carried out for working breeds. The research is unequivocal in stating that the ban on tail docking significantly increased the risk to adult working dogs of experiencing a tail injury. Although the Glasgow research is comprehensive, the authors are clear that, due to the methodology used, the true incidence of tail injuries in working dogs will be much higher than that described in the study. Working dogs are significantly more likely to experience a tail injury than non-working dogs. Tail injuries in working dogs include lacerations, contusions, fractures, dislocations and self-trauma; over the course of a working dog’s life, the cumulative welfare impact of these injuries can be severe. In the Glasgow research, amputation resulted in over 20% of tail injury cases in the study group. Amputation of an adult dog’s tail can lead to chronic pain and is a much more prolonged and invasive procedure than docking the tail of a very young puppy, particularly as puppies demonstrably heal faster than adult dogs. Docked puppies have been shown time and again to revert very quickly to normal behaviour immediately after docking has taken place. A shorter tail has no demonstrable negative impact on an adult dog in terms of expression and communication; anyone who has spent time with a group of working dogs, for example on a shoot, can attest to this. We question why the views of people who are not directly involved with the day-to-day welfare of working dogs, and for whom legislation on this matter has no material impact on their everyday lives, should be given the same weight as the views of people and organisations who must endure the daily consequences of bad law. Direct evidence provided to SACS by a former SSPCA animal rescue officer and auxiliary inspector supports the need for docking of puppies; in his view and that of his former colleagues, the pain and stress caused by adult tail amputation is horrendous and does not compare with the few seconds of discomfort caused by docking the tail of a puppy. There is a clear discrepancy between attitudes to tail docking and attitudes to dew claw removal and neutering of dogs. The latter procedures are commonplace and widely acceptable, despite not being ‘necessary’ for the ongoing welfare of a dog unless for treatment of a particular medical condition. Clearly tail docking is associated with fieldsports, and is therefore a target for animal rights groups who trade on the false assumption that animal rights equate to animal welfare; these are two separate issues, and anyone who has experienced the trauma associated with adult dog tail injury and amputation would accept that docking a working dog as a puppy as a preventative measure is in the best interests of that animal’s welfare. Terrier breeds should also be included within the proposed exemption. The methodology of the Glasgow research inherently disadvantaged the working terrier community, essentially excluding working terriers from the studies; clearly this was not appropriate and has left terriers inequitably excluded from the Scottish Government’s proposed exemption. Generally, terriers work in tighter cover than other working dogs, and exhibit strong tail action when they encounter quarry. This leads to tail damage, since the tail is abraded against harsh vegetation, rocks and other hard materials. It is not appropriate to potentially compromise the welfare of working terriers by excluding these breeds from the proposed exemption. Working cross breeds must also be included; the proposed exemption should focus on breed type rather than on specific breeds. Tail docking is such an important procedure for working dogs that, since the ban in tail docking in Scotland came into effect, many owners have sourced dogs from England (where tail docking of working breeds is permitted). It is reasonable to consider that there will be welfare implications of sourcing dogs from England, due to length of time in transit. Scotland was the only UK country to fail to provide tail docking exemptions for working dogs, effectively creating a two-tier system that is far from ideal – and unnecessarily so, given that the evidence to support tail docking for working dogs is now clear.

2. If the Scottish Ministers decide, after consultation, to permit limited tail docking for Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers, do you agree that such tail docking should be limited to the end third of the tail?

Please select one item
Yes
Ticked No
Don't know
Please explain why
The Glasgow research indicates that there is no increased benefit to removing more than one-third of a dog’s tail; however, we argue that the exact length to be removed should be at the discretion of the person carrying out the docking procedure. Docking cannot be a precise science, and the appropriate and practicable length to be removed will vary depending on a dog’s breed and age. By setting a mandatory exact length (one-third), the Scottish Government risks criminalising anyone who, for whatever relevant reason, cannot carry out the procedure to this level of precision. How would the Scottish Government intend to enforce this? As Dr Aileen McLeod MSP has stated, legislation must be enforceable; consequently, SACS believes that the extent of docking should be at the discretion of the person carrying out the procedure.

3. If the Scottish Ministers decide, after consultation, to permit limited tail docking for Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers, do you think the following would help effectively restrict the exemption to future working dogs?

Permit all veterinary surgeons to dock on evidence to their satisfaction that dogs are likely to work in future
Please select one item
Ticked Yes No Don't know
Permit only specially approved veterinary surgeons to dock on evidence to their satisfaction that dogs are likely to work in future
Please select one item
Yes Ticked No Don't know
Require veterinary surgeons that have docked dogs likely to work in future to carry out the microchipping and registration of that dog
Please select one item
Yes Ticked No Don't know
Please explain why
We do not agree that only vets should be permitted to carry out the procedure. Since tail docking of puppies is a comparatively straightforward procedure, carried out competently and effectively by breeders before the ban, we do not believe that there is justification for the involvement of a vet for the vast majority of working dog litters; however, since the consultation does not allow this view to be considered, we strongly oppose any restriction on the number of vets who are authorised to carry out tail docking. All vets should be allowed to carry out docking. The imposition of a restriction whereby only specially approved vets may carry out docking would disadvantage our members, particularly those living in more remote rural areas who do not have access to a large number of veterinary practices. No breeder or owner who has a legitimate need for docking should be placed in a position of having to travel long distances to obtain the procedure. The Scottish Government must fulfil its obligation to rural-proof the proposed exemption. With regard to microchipping of a puppy, since 6 April 2016 all dogs in Scotland must be microchipped and registered by the age of eight weeks old. The Kennel Club advises that puppies should not be microchipped before the age of six weeks old. Since docking of a puppy should be ideally carried out up to the age of five days old, we do not agree that microchipping and docking should take place at exactly the same time. If the breeder is to be registered as the first keeper of the dog before it is sold or passed on to a new keeper, then microchipping should be carried out in line with the Kennel Club’s age guidelines. If a breeder is using a specific local vet for the medical care of his or her dogs, then it is likely that the breeder will return to the same vet for all medical procedures anyway, but dog owners should have freedom of choice regarding who they engage to microchip their animals.

4. Do you have any additional suggestions that you think might help to effectively restrict tail docking to future working dogs?

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No
Please explain
The responsibility for docking must fall on the person carrying out the procedure, as there can never be one catch-all test that would be appropriate for all situations. We caution the Scottish Government against drafting an overly-prescriptive exemption that would fail to work competently in practice. It is imperative that all dogs that may go on to work for any period of time (however short or long that period may be) can have the tail docked as a puppy in order to prevent serious injury or cumulative injuries as an adult. The reason for the breeding of the litter and the intentions of the breeder should be the core tests; if a litter is bred from working parents, by a member of the fieldsports community who (at the time of whelping) fully intends to sell or give the puppies to working homes, this should be sufficient to permit docking to take place. The breeder is likely to have an existing relationship with their vet, in which case the vet will be familiar already with the breeder and their fieldsports activities. In pedigree dogs, breeding lines are likely to provide a good indication of the overriding purpose of a particular litter; however, not all working dogs are pedigree and so this cannot be used as a generic test. It must be noted that not all working dogs will go on to be owned and worked by people who shoot; other fieldsports, such as falconry, may require the use of working dogs, so any proposed exemption must not be focused purely on ‘shooting.’

Business Impact

5. Do you have a commercial interest in the breeding, sale or use of working dogs?

Breeding
Please select one item
Yes Ticked No
Sale
Please select one item
Yes Ticked No
Use
Please select one item
Yes Ticked No

6. Do you consider that the current total ban on tail docking has had a negative financial impact on the commercial breeding, sale or use of working Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers in Scotland?

Breeding
Please select one item
Ticked Yes No Don't know
Sale
Please select one item
Ticked Yes No Don't know
Use
Please select one item
Ticked Yes No Don't know
Please explain
We are aware that there has been a decline in the number of Scottish breeders and their financial gain, particularly for spaniel breeds. With this decline will come an inevitable threat to Scottish-bred lines, and an associated loss to our culture. The inconsistency between the law in Scotland and rUK has been a significant source of confusion to stakeholders, and is a clear disadvantage to the owners and breeders of Scottish working dogs.

7. Has the current ban had a negative financial impact on you personally, and was this linked to the sale of working dogs, working days lost through injury, or other reasons?

Ban has had a negative financial impact on me
Please select one item
Yes No Ticked Don't know
Impact includes loss of dog sales
Please select one item
Yes Ticked No Don't know
Impact includes loss of dog working days
Please select one item
Yes Ticked No Don't know
Other impacts
Please select one item
Yes No Ticked Don't know
Please explain
SACS members breed, own and work dogs, but we are not aware of the full extent of the impact of the current ban on our organisation.

8. What effect do you think that an exemption to the current ban for working Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers is likely to bring to your business, particularly on the expected sale of working dogs, working days lost through injury, the costs of tail docking or other reasons? If exemption was made:

Overall financial benefits would
Please select one item
Increase Decrease Not change Ticked N/A
Working dog sales would
Please select one item
Increase Decrease Not change Ticked N/A
Loss of dog working days from injury would
Please select one item
Increase Decrease Not change Ticked N/A
Cost of tail docking would
Please select one item
Increase Decrease Not change Ticked N/A
Other impacts would
Please select one item
Increase Decrease Not change Ticked N/A

9. Are you content for the Scottish Government to contact you for further clarification of the financial effects that you have estimated?

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No

About the consultation

10. Do you have any other comments on whether Scottish Ministers should introduce a tightly defined exemption to the ban on tail docking for working Spaniels and Hunt Point Retrievers?

Comments
The scientific evidence in favour of tail docking for working dogs is overwhelming. If, then, an exemption for working dogs is to be introduced, we would ask the Scottish Government to look to the comparable English legislation for guidance; we believe that SI 2007 No. 1120 is competently drafted and works well in practice.

11. Do you consider that that consultation explained the key issues sufficiently to properly consider your responses?

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No

12. Do you consider that you had sufficient time to respond to the consultation?

Please select one item
Ticked Yes
No