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“Where’s the evidence on dog tail docking?”

February 15, 2005

Media release from New Zealand Council for Docked Breeds

Professor Rebukes NZ Vets – “Where’s the evidence on dog tail docking?”

There is no scientific evidence that newborn puppies whose tails are docked by breeders using proper banding procedures, feel any real sensation, let alone pain, says the New Zealand Council of Docked Breeds. And plenty of evidence to show they do not.

And an eminent, recently retired, Professor in Veterinary Science (Sydney University) and Medicine (University of New South Wales) Bob Hales, has rebuked the New Zealand Veterinary Association for making unsubstantiated claims.

Professor Hales said it was time the New Zealand Veterinary Association stopped presenting anecdote as science.

“It’s fine for the Association to be opposed philosophically to docking but it is not fine for them to pretend there is science to back their views,” he said. “For example the one published scientific study of puppies the Association quotes is seriously flawed because there was no control observation made. Controls are a vital part of any good scientific observation.”

Council spokesperson Karen McIntyre said the pain and crying of puppies that the Veterinary Association anecdotes claimed was much more likely to be due to incompetent surgical procedures carried out by vets inexperienced at docking and where the newborn puppies had been taken from their mothers and thrust into unfamiliar surgery surroundings.

“New Zealand breeders with 30-years’ experience of properly banding newborn puppies will tell you they can often do it without even interrupting a pup’s feeding from its mother.”
Veterinary Association Should Know Better, says Professor Hales

Professor Hales said the Veterinary Association should know better than to come out with a string of unsubstantiated claims. “Where’s the scientific evidence?” he asked.

“The scientific view that puppies less than 10-days old are insufficiently developed in their nervous systems to feel pain in their tails is supported by: Professor Rudolf Fritsch (Head of Veterinary Surgery Clinic, Justus-Liebig University, Germany; Professor D. Grandjean, Veterinary School of Alfort, France and by myself.

“These are respected people and their views are based on robust studies. Unfortunately, the 2003 review paper referred to by the Association and authored by Bennett and Perini is not robust, uses much evidence not relevant to dogs and presents nothing new.

“In fact it uses much evidence not relevant to dogs; for example a study of lambs by Dr David Mellor. Lambs are born much more physiologically advanced and docking of lambs occurs some weeks after birth,” said Professor Hales.

“In my opinion, the authors referred to in the Bennett/Perini review are highly unlikely to have intended their discussion to be used in the way it currently is; that is, as an authoritative scientific document,” he said.

New Zealand Vets Unwilling to go Public

Professor Hales is supporting the Council in its submissions, opposing legislation banning dog tail docking, to a Parliamentary Select Committee.

Council spokesperson, Karen McIntyre said that there were also a number of New Zealand Vets who supported the Council’s position against a ban on tail-docking.

“Sadly they are unwilling to go public as the New Zealand Veterinary Association has made thinly veiled threats that mean members are more than a little inhibited,” she said.


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