Angus South MSP, Graeme Dey, has warmly welcomed the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue of tail docking.
In a parliamentary question, Mr Dey asked the Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead MSP, for confirmation of the approach being taken and sought to secure a commitment that considered, evidence-based views from the gamekeeping sector were being sought.
In reply, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed key organisations were being encouraged to comment on the findings of a paper from Glasgow University, who were commissioned to carry out research on the subject by the Scottish Government.
The university’s first survey of over 1,000 owners of working dogs found that in one shooting season more than half of undocked spaniels experienced a tail injury of some sort. It concluded that docking the tails of spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies by one third could significantly decrease the risk of injury for working dogs of these breeds.
In its second study the university looked at records of working breed tail injuries from veterinary practices in Scotland. It suggests that to prevent one tail injury between 81 and 135 pointer/setter, spaniel and Hunt Point Retriever puppies would need to be docked.
Groups including veterinary, welfare and countryside organisations, are being asked to give their feedback on the study by May 23.
Mr Lochhead added: “I recently met gamekeepers outside Parliament to collect a petition and speak to them about their concerns about tail docking legislation.
“I promised that I would consult them once the research was available, which it now is. I certainly agree that evidence from gamekeepers and others who regularly use working dogs is crucial to inform our consideration of this issue. We ensured that the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the Scottish Countryside Alliance and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation were all represented on the steering group of the University of Glasgow’s research project and we will listen closely to their views in the weeks ahead.”
Mr Dey who is depute convener of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment committee, commented: “As someone who represents a rural constituency and serves on the RACCE Committee I understand how important an issue this is.
“And it is vital that the voices of the gamekeeping fraternity are heard as they handle working dogs every day and have a deep understanding of the issue.
“Personally I support the calls for a tail docking exemption for working dogs although I recognise there are a range of views on the subject.”
The issue of tail docking is one that divides opinion. Changes in legislation since 2007 mean vets may only operate to shorten a dog’s tail in order to treat and existing injury or ailment.
However, those in favour changing this law say working dogs such as spaniels and terriers, run the risk of injuring their tails while running through gorse and scrub.
Opponents argue there is a lack of evidence for tail injuries sustained by these dogs and that the surgery causes pain and distress to the animal.