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Vets Break Ranks On Dog Tail Docking


Vets Break Ranks On Dog Tail Docking As Submissions Close On Yates’ Bill

As submissions close on legislation seeking to ban the docking of dogs’ tails, New Zealand veterinarians have broken ranks with their professional body, the New Zealand Veterinary Association, to support pedigree dog breeders in their opposition to the ban.

A prominent Kiwi veterinary specialist and former member of the Association, Dr Bruce Robertson is leading the rebellion. Now practicing in Sydney, Dr Robertson is one of more than 25 vets who have lent their support to the New Zealand Kennel Club and the New Zealand Council for Docked Breeds.

Submissions close tomorrow on Labour MP Dianne Yates’ private members bill, the Animal Welfare (Restriction on Docking of Dogs’ Tails) Bill, which is supported by the Vets’ Association. Most Stay Anonymous Due To Association Threat

The only expatriate among the ‘rebel’ vets, Dr Robertson is returning to New Zealand to take his stand publicly, seeking to appear before select committee hearings on the Yates bill. Most of the other vets opposing a ban on docking are remaining anonymous to avoid the threat of discipline from the Association.

Dr Robertson has criticised the Association and its spokesperson, Virginia Williams for their approach to the issue, calling it “one of challenge and thinly disguised confrontation, showing little tolerance of any alternative value judgements”

“Official Association policy notwithstanding, there is a significant body of opinion amongst registered veterinarians who, based on their own personal reconciliation of what is and isn’t an acceptable application of animal welfare principles, simply do not see this (tail docking) as a significant issue,” he said.

Vets’ Association Arguments called “Pseudo Science and Emotive Innuendo”

Dr Robertson has called evidence used by the Association to support the private member’s bill, “pseudo science and emotive innuendo, rather than any factual presentation of objective evidence.”

“In spite of all the claims and negative graphic imagery, there is no evidence to show that tail shortening, for whatever reason, carried out under controlled conditions and at an acceptably early stage in a healthy, strong neonate (newborn pup) is any more distressing than other similar measures in other domestic species that remain acceptable as established animal husbandry procedures,” he said. No Science To Back Claims of Cruelty, Pain From Proper Docking

New Zealand Council of Docked Breeds spokesperson, Karen McIntyre said responsible pedigree dog breeders docked their newborn puppies using proper banding (with rubber band) procedures that involved little or no pain.

“There is well established scientific evidence to show that puppies less than five days old are not developed enough in the nervous systems to feel pain in their tails. Dogs are different from other species in this regard – they’re part of what’s known as the altricial family of neo-nates – quite different from lambs, and calves for example.

“The crying of puppies that the Veterinary Association anecdotes of docking claim are, we believe, much more likely a result of incompetent surgical procedures carried out by vets inexperienced at docking, and where the newborn pups had been taken from their mothers and thrust into unfamiliar surgery surroundings,” said Ms McIntryre.

“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.”

A Waste of Taxpayers Money and Bureaucratic Effort

Ms McIntyre said the practice of tail docking predated dog shows by centuries, but had become an integral element of the tradition and culture of pedigree dog breeding and showing, and should be allowed to continue.

“Given the lack of any substantial evidence showing pain or ongoing harm to dogs, the bureaucratic effort and taxpayer expense involved in passing and effectively enforcing this legislation can’t be justified,” she said.

“In countries where a ban or restrictions have been imposed, dogs continue to be docked, continue to win prizes at shows and no successful prosecutions have ever been bought.”

Karen McIntyre NZ Council for Docked Breeds

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