Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Admited Defeat


"The Council of Docked Breeds should give itself a pat on the back and the thousands of breeders who are still able to find a vet prepared to dock their puppies should show their appreciation". This is how Dog World commented on the announcement this week that the RCVS has all but admitted defeat, in its efforts to ban docking by the back door. The article ends "There is no room for complacency, and we have no doubt that the CDB having effectively won this battle, will be doing its best to ensure that the long-term war is not lost".


Throughout the year the RCVS continued to coerce vets into ceasing to dock, until just two weeks ago, when they issued this statement, following a meeting of their Council on November 6th 1997;

The RCVS Preliminary Investigation Committee has recently decided not to refer to the Disciplinary Committee two cases in which it was alleged that a veterinary surgeon had docked puppies tails for reasons that were neither therapeutic nor prophylactic.

Any case referred to the Disciplinary Committee which may result in a veterinary surgeon losing his/her right to practise, must be proved beyond reasonable doubt – the same standard of proof as is required in a criminal case.

In any docking case, therefore, it must be established beyond all reasonable doubt that there was no therapeutic or prophylactic justification. It is also necessary to demonstrate that the docking was repeated or routine and not an isolated incident. This usually requires the co-operation of clients or owners. In neither of the two cases recently considered, were the owners prepared to provide the necessary evidence.

The Preliminary Investigation Committee has taken legal advice and, after full consideration of the issues, has had to conclude that even though one of the acts of docking was shown on television, the absence of other evidence was such that the cases were unlikely to be successful before the Disciplinary Committee".

A small victory then for ourselves and all docking vets. The statement however added; "The RCVS further points out that the veterinary profession has asked the Government to introduce primary legislation to ban the cosmetic removal of dogs tails in the United Kingdom. It says that it will continue to press the Government to sign the European Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals which specifically prohibits the docking of tails along with other surgical operations for the purpose of modifying the appearance of a pet animal".

Not an unexpected statement in the circumstances and one which we had already taken steps to counter.

Relying on the Government helping them out of this mess indicates that perhaps the RCVS were not aware of the following;

Just over a month ago, at the British Veterinary Association congress, John Bower asked the Minister, if the Government was prepared to introduce legislation banning docking. Mr Morley replied that "the Government would prefer to see breeders, The Kennel Club and veterinarians dealing with the issue on a voluntary basis. The legislation already stated that dogs should not have their tails docked unless it was for a veterinary reason. The answer therefore lay in the hands of the veterinary profession. However, if progress failed to be made, perhaps the Government would look at the issue again", said Mr Morley.

Not exactly the categorical denunciation of docking that the profession was hoping to hear, especially when they were about to concede to their own failure to ban docking by the back door.