New Zealand breeders win over Tail Docking Ban

Wellington, June 10 2010 NZPA - Tail docking of newly born puppies has been given the green light.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (Nawac) said today there was no available evidence that "tail banding" within 72 hours of birth caused pain or distress to puppies.

But Nawac said that the docking for non-therapeutic purposes must be carried out by trained staff before the animals were four days old, while veterinarians may remove or shorten tails to treat injury or disease.

Breeders docking tails use tight elastic bands to cut off blood supply in the tail, but veterinarians can make a surgical amputation.

The tail docking decision -- in a welfare code approved by Agriculture Minister David Carter -- contrasts with the thinking three years ago when Nawac called for tail docking to only be conducted by veterinarians and said the pain of cosmetic docking might outweigh any perceived benefits.

At that time, it said the dropping of a 2004 member's bill introduced by Labour MP Dianne Yates to ban tail docking in dogs -- which received a hostile response from farmers and dog breeders -- meant there was a need to introduce some regulation around the practice.

The bill had said dogs' tails could be docked only by veterinarians "for the welfare of the animal" -- the policy of the New Zealand Veterinary Association.

Nawac said that because of that policy, a code that allowed docking only by veterinarians would be an effective ban on tail docking for non-therapeutic reasons.

It had decided instead to manage risks by placing conditions on the technique, the person conducting the docking, and the age of the puppy.

Cosmetic amputations of tails have been used to tailor a dog to a breed standard, or on the basis of a claim that the dog may damage its tail when working as an adult dog -- a need the committee said may have been "exaggerated".

Nawac said there remained disagreement over the ethics, including whether tail docking caused greater harms to the animals than it prevented, or whether there were sufficient indirect benefits to offset the harms.

Full code can be viewed here