Cutting off a dog’s tail, or tail-docking as it is more commonly known, is a practice that goes back hundreds of years to UK breeders of working and sport dogs. At that time, there were some very good, practical reasons to dock a dog’s tail when he was a puppy. The procedure saved the dog injuries later in life from getting caught in briar bushes or getting attacked by another animal on a hunt.
In 1991, the UK government changed the veterinary code and made it illegal for any lay person, like a breeder for instance, to dock a dog’s tail. Only vets were allowed to do it after that. A year later, the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons ruled that the practice was unethical and that any surgeon doing it for other than medical or therapeutic reasons could be removed from the register, an act equivalent to having a medical license revoked in the United States.
After the United Kingdom banned docking completely, other nations, first in Europe and then throughout the world, followed suit. Docking is currently banned in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Virgin Islands. You might note that the United States is not on this list.
Proponents of docking claim that it’s a sanitary and painless procedure that needs to be done on certain breeds, but Doberman pinschers and Pit-bulls are not working dogs and don’t have a history of bacterial disease in their ears, so why cut the tail and trim the ears? We all know the answer to that question. The cutting is done to make the dogs look mean. They are guard dogs to a lot of folks, not family pets, and they are fighting dogs to others, far too many in fact. If dog fighting is illegal in the United States, why is mutilating your dog to make him look mean still allowed?
Another argument that those in favor of docking put forward is the “my dog is a hunting dog” excuse for cutting off the tail. That doesn’t hold water either. The Retriever and Golden Retriever are two of the finest sporting dogs in the world because of their tail. They and their ancestor the St. John’s Water Dog were first used by settlers in North America back in the 16th Century to help with fishing and hunting. Tails were never docked back then. In fact, the practice didn’t exist yet.
There are a lot of wonderful things that make the United States different from the rest of the world. Tail docking isn’t one of them. If so many other countries have banned the practice, why don’t we just follow suit? If you think it doesn’t hurt the dog, put one of your hands on the table and cut a finger off. That’s pretty much how it feels.