CDB Submission - Part Two




Letters and reports of tail damage to working gundogs

Dear Sir

Our cocker spaniel bitch Lucy was 14 months old and enjoying the experience of her first working season when the problem with her tail started in December 1996. Approximately two inches at the tip of her tail broke open leaving raw, bleeding skin. This was treated by the vet with cream and we tried our best to protect it (not easy!) for the next two months. Lucy was in obvious pain during this time and the tail would always break out whenever she was working and often when she was being exercised.

Eventually the vet recommended we have the tail amputated, which was done on 12th February 1997. This caused Lucy much distress over the next few days. She cried a lot with pain, was very reluctant to even walk and generally changed completely from the happy confident dog we knew. Eight days later she was back at the vet because the stitches were infected. The end of the tail was in such a mess, the stitches had to be removed early and she was back on antibiotics. The tail had to be bandaged for three weeks but eventually scarred over approximately one month after the operation. The vets bill was over £100.

Another member of our shooting syndicate had to have their springer spaniel's tail amputated last year. Needless to say, I am no longer open-minded about this issue, believing now that it is cruel not to dock.

Yours sincerely

Kay MacDonald


Dear Sir

I acquired 'Pip', my English Springer Spaniel as a five month old pup last November. He had not been docked, and my shooting friends on seeing him all remarked on his tail length and warned me to keep an eye on tail damage.

When I approached my vet, he said that the only way the tail could be 'amputated' was for medical reasons. I even produced my shotgun certificate to show that I didn't just want the tail docked for the sake of it, and that I only wanted about a third off to stop him catching it, but the vet told me to bring him back if his tail became damaged, and to pay the consultation fee on the way out.

Shortly afterwards I noticed a small scab on the end of his tail, and over the next couple of days it became worse. I could see that as he wagged his tail it was bashing hard against everything in sight, and when it became red raw down one side I decided to revisit the vet. He agreed to amputate the end of the tail under a general anaesthetic. Pip wore a trumpet collar for ten days, when the vet advised me that it could be removed, but the following morning on returning from dawn flight I was greeted by Pip bearing a ragged bleeding stump.

Whether he had chewed the tail or banged it in the kennel I don't know, but again a series of visits to the vet followed. Poultices were applied, the vet found an abcess and advised me that further amputation was needed, with yet more suffering for Pip and expense for me. He has now been to the vet 11 times, had two operations under general anaesthetic and had more antibiotics than me.

I believe that had my puppy been docked straight after birth he would not have suffered in the way he did, and nor would I or my wife. All because of a bunch of do-gooders who are probably city dwellers and know nothing about working dogs or country ways and life.

Yours faithfully

Martyn Ball
Ynys Mon

Dear Sir

Manorrog Miss Matty was born on 2nd April 1994 and came to me at six months old. She had a fine full tail and looked beautiful with it when she carried it proudly like a flag, waving and wagging. However beautiful it may look, it was soon obvious to me that the practicality of docking was not a case of cruelty if docked, but cruelty not to dock.

After her initial obedience training and some success at country fairs in scurries and tests we began serious work in September 1994 on a major partridge shoot near Grantham. Even on the first day her tail became cut working in tall maize. As the season progressed and Matty's experience grew we moved on in October to pheasants and we worked in the beating line on two major local shoots. We also worked on rough shoots on disused railway lines around this part of Lincolnshire. These heavily overgrown areas caused havoc with her tail and it soon became apparent that I will have to have her tail removed, a risky operation at her age involving a full anaesthetic.

I had an open mind about docking when I took Matty. Now I am convinced never to have a full tailed spaniel again. The cruelty is not in docking, but in not docking. The enclosed photograph of her battered tail and a bloodstained dog are proof of this.

Matty worked probably three days a week on average through the season and I appreciate this is more often than many dogs. The point is that she had an unnecessary problem brought about by not being docked. It is my intention to work my dogs as least as often as this again this coming season, however, should I use Matty? The evidence is plain: Matty worked alongside many other dogs, not just mine, and no others had damage similar to hers.

I hope this evidence is of some use to you. Please feel free to use any photograph in any way you may wish.

Yours faithfully

Kevin Leach


Report on Mr Alan Smith of Swansea, 20th November 1995

Mr Alan Smith is a rough shooter and a BFSS member. In April this year he bought a 3 year old ESS dog. It was fully trained, as he does not have the time or facilities for training. A fortnight ago he was invited beating, this being the first time that he has worked the dog for a full day in thick cover.

The tail was "a real mess" at the end of the day, raw and bleeding. Blood blisters then formed which would burst in the house. Though it is no longer bleeding, the tip of the tail is bare and peeling.

Mr Smith sought to have the tail amputated, so contacted a number of vets, eventually finding one in Swansea who was prepared to dock, though it "took a little persuasion". The dog is booked in for Thursday 23rd November. Mr Smith is taking photographs of the tail before he goes to the vet, and will be sending them to us.

Report on Mr K Toppings of Wigan, January 2000

Mr K Toppings bought his long tailed English Springer Spaniel, Sassy, as an 8 week old puppy. It was his first spaniel, and he admits that he didn't know much about the breed at the time. He was told by the breeder that it was difficult to get puppies docked, and accepted this. He has been training the puppy for 12 months, and she is now 16 months old. Her tail has been damaged by continuous wagging against the side of her kennel, and when he found her recently with blood over her back, he decided to take action and contacted the CDB.

He was advised to seek amputation, and contacted his vet, who eventually agreed to amputate for an initial fee of £71. However, there will be further charges as the tail needs to be re-dressed and further antibiotics have to be administered. The tail is obviously very sore and tender, and the bitch is constantly trying to remove the dressing.

Mr Topping says "It's ludicrous that a dog should be put through so much distress instead of being docked at three days."

Part Two