Docking Questionnaire Results
In co-operation with the weekly newspaper 'Dog World', the CDB inserted a reply paid questionnaire survey form in the magazine 'Veterinary Practice', which is circulated to veterinary professionals. A total of 1140 replies were received and processed in the run up to 1 July 1993.
The questionnaire sought to establish certain details about vets practices, their involvement with dogs, and whether they docked now, in the past, or whether they would do so in the future. It asked them if they were in favour or against docking and if so, to what extent. It asked them about the extent to which they were influenced by certain arguments both for and against docking, and it asked them how significant they thought the issue was.
Respondents were not asked for their names or addresses, though many of them volunteered this information.
Of the 1140 respondents, 84.3% were in veterinary practice, the majority of whom were in small animal (58.6%) or mixed (38.6%) practices. Of those not currently in practice, the majority (57%) were retired, with 12.8% each in teaching and industry, 9.5% in research, 5.6% with MAFF or similar Government services, and 2.2% were students.
75.4% of respondents were dog owners, and no fewer than 79 different breeds were cited, the most popular being crossbreds, followed by Labradors.
25.5% were involved with dogs outside their professions, with 22.3% of this group concerned with breeding, 18.2% with field sports, 12.5% with breeding, 11.8% with obediance work, 9.5% with trials, 5.4% with dogs for the disabled and 20.3% with other activities.
Vets were then asked about their past, present and future involvement with docking.
88.6% of them had docked puppies at some time in the past, and 24.5% did so currently. When asked whether they would dock after July 1st 1993, 9.1% of the total sample said they would, and 86.9% said that they would not. Even though a 'don't know' box was not given, a further 4% of vets indicated clearly that they had not yet made up their minds.
When asked if they were in favour of docking or against it, (as opposed to whether or not they would or would not dock), 2.3% said they were strongly in favour, 7.7% said that they were in favour, 13.2% were neutral, 27.9% were against and 48.9% were strongly against.
Those vets who currently docked or who would do so in the future were asked how strongly they were influenced by certain arguements in favour of docking. Prophylaxis or the avoidance of anticipated future injury, represented a moderate or strong influence to 66.3% of vets, while the requests of eventual owners of puppies represented a moderate or strong influence to 48% of vets.
Those vets who do not dock or will not dock were asked how strongly they were influenced by certain arguments against docking. 84.2% were strongly influenced by the contention that docking is an 'unnecessary mutilation', while 50.7% were strongly influenced by the advice of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).
Vets were then asked how significant they believe docking to be in animal welfare terms. 18.8% thought it very significant, 47.3% thought it significant, 22.5% thought it not very significant, and 11.5% thought it insignificant.
The pattern outlined above did not significantly alter when the views of vets in small animal or mixed practices only were considered (i.e. those most likely to be asked by breeders to dock). However, differences of attitude between various age and sex groupings did emerge. Male vets are almost three times more likely to dock after July 1st deadline than their female colleagues (Males:- 11.9% yes, 83.9% no, 4.2% don't know; Females:- 4.2% yes, 92.8% no, 3.0% don't know).
Older vets are significantly more likely to dock after July 1st than younger ones. In the 22-35 age group, only 5% said thay would do so. This figure increased to 7.1% (35-45), 10.2% (45-55), 23.0% (55-65) and 29.4% (over65).
The views of pro-docking vets concerning the significance of docking in animal welfare terms differed substantially from those of the sample as a whole. 42.2% considered docking insignificant in animal welfare terms, 35.6% considered it not very significant, 18.9%considered it significant, and 3.3% considered it very significant.
As has already been noted, 63.1% of vets who currently dock intend to cease doing so on July 1st. This group was selected in order to identify any specific reasons why they will not dock in future, and the advice of the RCVS emerged as the most significant factor. 77.0% said that they were strongly influenced by the RCVS advice not to dock, and a further 17.8% said that the RCVS advice had provided some influence in their decision not to dock.
Finally, the views of those vets who had not made up their minds as to whether or not to dock after July 1st were assessed. Of this group, 46.7% were neutral on the issue, with 35.6% in favour of docking and 17.8% against it. None of them thought docking to be very significant in animal welfare terms, while 77.8% thought it either not very significant or insignificant, and by far the most important influence in their decision making was the advice of the RCVS, which was cited as a strong influence by 82.8% of the group and some influence by a further 13.8%
COMMENTS FROM VETS
Although no additional views or comments from respondents were actively sought by the questionnaire, many vets included their views or observations. Several expresed the view that docking was a trivial procedure when compared to spaying, castration and the removal of dew claws, while one believed that the pain caused is less than that of a person having the ear lobe pierced for the insertion of a ring.
Others doubted whether docking could be considered a prophylactic procedure, especially in show dogs. One said that in 20 years of practice, he had not had to amputate a tail through injury sustained by a working dog.
Several vets said that they would like to continue docking but did not want to risk being struck off by the RCVS, whilst others said that the decision to dock or not to dock should be taken by the veterinary surgeon in consultation with the owner, and not by the RCVS.
Finally, several vets said that they were not happy with the close docking which is customary in some breeds. However, they were prepared to accept docking where only part of the tail is removed.
A year after the BSAVA survey, the questionnaire revealed deeply divided opinions within the profession. A clear majority of vets who responded were against docking, but a significant minority are in favour and intend to continue.
* Around 730 vets (9.1% of the 8141 full time vets in general practice) intend to continue docking after July 1st. Approxamately a further 325 (4.0%) are still undecided.
* The number of vets who favour docking has not changed from the BSAVA's 1992 finding of 10.0%. In addition, 76.8% are against and 13.2% are neutral.
* The avoidance of tail damage is a significant influence amongst two thirds of docking vets. Almost half of them are influenced by the requests of eventual owners of puppies.
* Non-docking vets are strongly influenced by the RCVS argument that it is an unnecessary mutilation (84.2%). Half of them are influenced by the advice of the RCVS.
* Male vets are three times as likely to dock after July 1st than their female colleagues. Older vets are more likely to continue docking than younger ones.
* Of those vets who currently dock, but will not after July 1st, 94% are influenced by the advice of the RCVS>
* Vets comment that docking is trivial when compared to spaying, castration and dew claw removal.
* Vets own the following top five dogs:
1 - Mongrel / Crossbred (184)
2 - Labrador (147)
3 - Border Collie (107)
4 - Jack Russell Terrier (96)
5 - German Shepherd (48)