Docking tails

The law on docking tails changed in 2007 and varies according to the country in the UK. If it’s permitted in your country and you have a working dog that you want to dock, you must go to a veterinary surgeon. If you want to buy a dog with a docked tail, the breeder or owner should have a certificate from the vet.

What are the exemptions in England?
Working dogs can have their tails docked, providing it’s done by a veterinary surgeon and before the puppy is five days old. The vet must certify that they have seen evidence the dog is likely to work. Once the tail has been docked, the dog needs to be micro-chipped before it’s three months old.

Docking is also permitted if required for medical treatment.

What about in Wales?
You can dock a tail if the puppy is younger than five days old, is micro-chipped before three and is either a spaniel, terrier or hunt point retrieve breed.

Is tail docking banned in Northern Ireland?
Yes, and it’s illegal to take a dog elsewhere to dock its tail. If you’re caught, you could face two years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

A veterinary surgeon can only dock a tail if it’s for medical treatment and an individual may dock a tail if will save a dog’s life and impractical for a vet to carry out the procedure.

puppies with docked tailsDo the same rules apply to Scotland?
No, the ban is absolute in Scotland. However, there is a loophole that means a pregnant bitch could be taken out of Scotland and the puppies can be docked according to English law.

Five years ago the First Minister Alex Salmond promised the ban would be lifted if evidence supported it, but there has been no movement.

How do I dock a tail?
It is illegal for anyone other than a veterinary surgeon to dock a tail.

Whilst it’s legal to dock a working dog’s tail, you may find some vets won’t be comfortable doing this. They are within their rights to refuse because the law change doesn’t require a vet to dock an eligible tail.

It’s advised that you plan ahead from the 40th day of pregnancy

When you’ve found a vet that will do this procedure, you need to present the puppy with the dam along with a statement expressing that the dog is intended to work in one of the accepted areas, which include lawful pest control and the lawful shooting of animals. You’ll need to supply either a shotgun or firearm certificate of the owner or a letter from a person who can vouch that the breeder’s previous litters have been used on that person’s land, in his shoot or for pest control.

The rules are different for Northern Ireland

Can I show a docked dog?
It’s worth considering that you can’t show a docked dog at a show where the public is charged a fee for admission (unless the dog was docked before 28 March 2007) in England and Wales. However, you will be able to show the dog if demonstrating its working ability.

A dog legally docked in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or abroad may be shown at a show in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Shooting Times explains show rules in more detail

Does it hurt?
Puppies are docked before they are five days old without anaesthesia. This is because the nervous system isn’t properly developed and only causes minimal discomfort. Older dogs need to be anaesthetised.

What if I’m buying a docked puppy?
You need to check that the breeder has a certificate from the vet if the puppy has been docked and the puppy needs to be micro-chipped before three months old. If the puppy isn’t already micro-chipped, this becomes your responsibility as soon as you take ownership.